Farmers begin 10-day strike in five states, say will halt supply of veggies and milk
The strike , initially declared in Madhya Pradesh, spread to Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.Updated: Jun 01, 2018 23:36 IST
Mumbai, New Delhi and Bhopal Farmer organisations across five states launched “Gaon Bandh” (village shutdown), a 10-day strike starting Friday, demanding loan waivers, land reforms and free power supply for pumps, highlighting the ongoing agrarian crisis in the country and deep resentment among the farming community that could, unless addressed, hurt the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politically in elections to key states later this year and the national elections in 2019.
Reports from states suggest the strike has not made a significant impact on day one. Markets for farm produce may be affected in the next few days as participating farmer organisations are likely to coordinate their actions. Balbir Singh Rajewal, the president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, said farmers would stop supplying vegetables and milk to the cities. “The impact will be visible in the next few days,” he added.
The strike is being coordinated by the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh (RKM) with local partners in other participating states, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab.
It is timed to mark the anniversary of a similar agitation held in Maharashtra last year that was aimed to cutting off the supply of essential food commodities and shutting down trading in agricultural markets.
In Maharashtra, the impact of the strike was palpable in pockets. Road blockades were put up on both Pune-Bengaluru and Pune-Nashik highways.
Areas that saw blockage of supplies include Khed-Shivapur in Pune district as well as parts of Satara, Solapur, Ahmednagar, Nashik, and Aurangabad districts.
In Madhya Pradesh, most vegetable markets functioned normally, including in Mandsaur, where five protesting farmers were killed in police firing last June . There were reports of reduced supply in some markets and a marginal spike in prices. Milk supply was normal throughout the state.
Farmer and leader Shiv Kumar, popularly called Kakkaji, and Bharatiya Kisan Union’s general secretary Anil Kumar claimed the strike would get widespread support from farmers in the state . “Trading has come to a halt in markets in Harda, Neemuch, Piperia,” said Indore-based Kedar Sirohi, the leader of Aam Kisan Union.
The renewed protests signal the lingering challenges of an agrarian distress marked by falling prices and demands for farm loan waivers in several states. Rural discontent continues to be a key challenge for the Narendra Modi-led government. Aside from Punjab (where Congress is in power), all the states facing Gaon Bandh are governed by the BJP.
The farmers are demanding a total loan waiver of all outstanding loans, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations for the agriculture sector, free power supply for pumps, and higher prices for fuel ethanol purchases.
We want the government to accept all our demands. Until then, we will continue to block supply of fruits, vegetables and milk,” said Sandeep Gidde Patil, a member of the RKM.
When asked about the agitation, agriculture secretary SK Pattanayak said, “We haven’t received any memorandum from any farmer organisations (on their demands). If we do, we will certainly respond to them.”