Farmers’ agitation across Maharashtra and the politics of it

Updated on Jul 04, 2017 01:34 AM IST
Mumbai city news: As the farmers’ outfits organised Maharashtra bandh on Monday, there was a significant development. Influential farmers leaders are now coming together. These leaders will now meet and chalk out a strategy to stage a sustained agitation to force the government to accept their demands
Sellers take a nap at a vegetable market. A paucity in supply to Mumbai has hit businesses.(Bhushan Koyande)
Sellers take a nap at a vegetable market. A paucity in supply to Mumbai has hit businesses.(Bhushan Koyande)
Hindustan Times | By

For more than a week, the farmers’ agitation in Maharashtra has grabbed the national headlines. Farmers are rarely a topic of discussion in a city like Mumbai, except when the media reports their suicides. However, the agitation affected the supply of vegetables, fruits and milk to the cities. Prices of these essential commodities spiralled at several places, which made the agitation a prominent subject of discussion.

For the past few months, the issue of farm loan waiver is being put forth by the farmers’ outfits, Opposition parties and even Shiv Sena, which is part of the Central and the state governments.

The agitation was started by a few groups of farmers from Ahmednagar district, who called for a strike from June 1, to seek attention of the government to their demands. The government managed to take the fizz out of this agitation, as it invited their representatives for talks and promised certain decisions — including [Rs30,000 crore] farm loan waiver for small and marginal farmers. Some of the representatives called off the agitation, while others chose to continue. The split in the farmers’ outfits meant the agitation lost its momentum.

However, it is far from over.

On one hand, the Opposition and the Shiv Sena have supported the agitation, on the other, two prominent farmers outfits, Shetkari Sanghatana (founded by renowned farmers’ leader late Sharad Joshi) and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, led by MP Raju Shetti, have now joined hands. The two organisations have significant following, which means their agitations will have a deeper impact.

Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis insisted the farmers were happy with the promise made by him and remarked the government will talk to real farmers and not those who are using farmers for political gains. His target is the Congress-NCP combine.

But it is not just the Opposition, Fadnavis may have to blame all political parties for the same. The issue of farm loan waiver has been raised by all political parties at one point or the other. Today’s ruling party was also not an exception.

Fadnavis is right when he says one farm loan waiver can’t solve the problem of the farmers and a permanent solution is needed.

The farmers want water to grow multiple crops, low interest loans, minimum assured income through protection against price fluctuations and crop insurance so they get adequate compensation in case of a crop failure owing to natural calamity.

The traders who sell seeds and fertilisers and those who buy their produce exploit them. Often, these traders are hand in glove with politicians and local officials. Public sector banks have thousands of crores defaulted by industrialists, but they are not keen to give loans to farmers. Cooperative bank network is a better option for farmers in several parts, but it is flawed.

Unfortunately, the political parties never reach a consensus to address these issues either because of short term political gains or vested interests.

As the farmers’ outfits organised Maharashtra bandh on Monday, there was a significant development. Influential farmers leaders are now coming together. The outfits have reconstituted their state-level core committee by including prominent farmers’ leaders such as Shetti, Raghunanthdada Patil, Vijay Jawandhia, Girdhar Patil and independent legislator Bachchu Kadu. These leaders will now meet and chalk out a strategy to stage a sustained agitation to force the government to accept their demands.

This is not exactly a desirable development from the government’s viewpoint. Still, this could be a turning point. These leaders understand the exact problems of the farmers and CAN give valuable inputs for a long-term solution.

Let’s hope both the sides work out something which becomes an effective solution on farmers problems.


    Shailesh Gaikwad is senior associate editor, Hindustan Times. He heads the political bureau in HT’s Mumbai edition. In his career of over 18 years, he has covered Maharashtra politics, state government and urban governance issues.

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