Vegetable prices soar as farmers’ protest enters second day
Farmer organisations called for a 10-day “Gaon Bandh” (rural shutdown) from June 1 demanding loan waivers, land reforms and higher prices for their produce.india Updated: Jun 02, 2018 20:13 IST
Vegetables became dearer in parts of Punjab, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh on Saturday as farm supplies dwindled due to the agitation launched by farmers, even as union ministers and state governments sought to downplay toe impact of the protests.
Union agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh suggested the protests were a publicity statement, saying “people need to do unique things to feature in the media”, according to news agency ANI. Earlier, his Madhya Pradesh counterpart claimed “no farmers are participating in the strike. Farmers are happy with the schemes”.
Farmer organisations called for a 10-day “Gaon Bandh” (rural shutdown) from June 1 demanding loan waivers, land reforms and higher prices for their produce. The agitation, which the organisers say will end with a nationwide shutdown on its tenth day, has brought back focus on an agrarian crisis 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.
Traders in the Chandigarh fruit and vegetable market said the prices of several vegetables such as tomatoes, potatoes, capsicum and bottle gourd had increased by Rs 10-20 a kilo.
Traders in some markets in Madhya Pradesh also reported a spike in prices. “There is a 30-40% drop in supplies since yesterday. Today, the wholesale prices were up by about 20%,” said Amit Patidar, a trader at Neemuch fruit and vegetable market.
At a few places in Madhya Pradesh, farmers put up blockades. In Petlawad town in tribal Jhabua district, farmers distributed milk and vegetables free to patients in the hospitals , refusing to sell both.
Resentment among farmers is particularly strong in Madhya Pradesh — a BJP-ruled state that is among a clutch of others set for elections this winter — and Congress president Rahul Gandhi is expected to visit Mandsaur in the state, where five farmers were killed last year on June 6, while taking part in demonstrations.
Anil Yadav, the union general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union, one of the organisations coordinating the agitation, said the campaign will be amplified from next week.
In Punjab, where chief minister Amarinder Singh blamed the Centre for the farm crisis, farmers protested at several places such as Nabha, Ludhiana, Muktsar, Tarn Taran, Nangal and Ferozepur and blocked supply of vegetables and milk entering cities.
According to the Punjab police, farmers allegedly forced the closure of vegetable mandi in Ferozpur and in Bathinda, farmers owing allegiance to Bhartiya Kisan Union stopped some vehicles carrying milk. Some farmers were taken into custody, said Bathinda police station officer Iqbal Singh.
In Haryana, milk supply to Haryana Dairy Development Co-operative Federation Ltd was blocked in several districts. In Sirsa, police booked about 90 unidentified persons for allegedly trying to stop sale of milk and vegetables in their village. In Hisar, Fatehabad and Sirsa where the farmers held protest early morning and did not allow any vegetable seller to reach at the city.
In Maharashtra, the Rashtriya Kisaan Mahasangh (RKM) stopped supplies of vegetables, fruits and mils to cities such as Mumbai, Pune and Nashik. The Mahasangh also announced it would intensify the agitation by increasing the number of traffic blockades from June 7.
The decision to stop supplies starting from June 1 till June 10 was taken by the farmers under the banner of Kisan Ekta Manch and Rashtriya Kisan Maha Sangh.
(With agency inputs)