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Maharashtra farmers go on strike, block highways to cut off supplies

The strike is part of a nation- wide protest across 130 cities to highlight the ongoing agrarian crisis and press for demands.

mumbai Updated: Jun 02, 2018 13:24 IST
Faisal Malik
Faisal Malik
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra farmers,strike,highways
Farmers protest by spilling milk and vegetables at Khed Shivapur in Pune on Friday.(HT Photo)

On the first anniversary of the unprecedented farmers’ strike in Maharashtra that forced the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government to announce a loan waiver, farmers’ outfit Rashtriya Kisaan Mahasangh (RKM) kicked off a ten-day farmers’ strike from Friday.

The strike is part of a nation- wide protest across 130 cities to highlight the ongoing agrarian crisis and press for demands including complete loan waiver and higher minimum support price (MSP). As part of the protest, members of RKM tried to stop supplies of essential commodities — vegetables, fruits and milk – by holding ‘raasta roko’ at Pune-Bangalore Highway, Pune-Nashik Highway, Khed-Shivapur, Indapur, Shirur of Pune district, Karad in Satara, Pandharpur in Solapur, Sangamner in Ahmednagar, Nashik, Yeola in Nashik district, Parbhani and Aurangabad districts.

The impact of day one of the strike was limited as many other farmers’ outfits in the state decided to stay away. However, if it continues, it could lead to shortage of essential commodities.

The RKM asked farmers to stop selling their produce to local Agriculture Produce Marketing Committees (APMCs)to hit the supply at wholesale markets. The main demands of the protesting farmers’ outfit include a complete loan waiver, higher MSP as recommended in the Swaminathan Commission report, free power supply for pumps and ethanol as an alternative fuel.

“Until all our demands are met, we will continue to block supplies,” said Sandeep Gidde Patil, core committee member, RKM. “In a day or two, the supply at APMCs will be affected,’’ added Gidde. State government officials however said the strike had not impacted supplies at APMC markets. Bijay Kumar, principal secretary, state agriculture and marketing department said, “Only one farmers’ outfit tried to stop supplies for which we are taking precautions with the home department’s help.”

RKM expects more farmers to join their protest from Saturday. Meanwhile, Akhil Bhartiya Kisaan Sabha (ABKS), a left-aligned outfit that had organised farmers’ long march from Nashik to Mumbai this year, also held a protest on Friday at more than 20 districts outside tehsildar offices but did not support RKM’s strike. It also has the same demands. Ajit Nawale, general secretary, ABKS, said, “We have decided not to support RKM as the strike hits farmers hard as well. Instead, we chose to hold agitations outside tehsildar offices. At some places like Akola, supporters even spilled milk outside the offices.” He added that it was a one-day protest and they will meet in Mumbai on Saturday to decide the future course of action.

Sada Khot, minister of state for agriculture and marketing, said the state was willing to hold negotiations with farmers. “Around 40 lakh farmers will get loan waiver benefit for which the state has already released ₹15,000 crore. We are procuring tur after its excessive production. The Centre has agreed to increase MSP,” Khot said.

First Published: Jun 02, 2018 13:24 IST