Willing to talk to anyone to resolve issue: Fadnavis on farmers’ protests

While several representatives called off their strike following Fadnavis’ assurance, some farmers’ outfits decided to continue with the agitations and even organised a Maharashtra bandh on Monday.

mumbai Updated: Jun 11, 2017 21:46 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Devendra Fadnavis,Maharashtra,Mandsaur farmers' agitation
Farmers throwing vegetables on a road during a protest in Nagpur, Maharashtra on June 5.(PTI Photo)

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said on Tuesday his government was willing to discuss the farmers’ issue with anyone provided they do not have a political agenda as they continued their protests even after he announced a farm loan waiver for small and marginal farmers in the state.

“Most of the people staging protests are not real farmers. They are political workers. I am willing to talk with anyone to resolve the problems of farmers but not those who have political intentions,” Fadnavis said as the agitation entered the sixth day.

The chief minister held talks with the representatives of various farmers’ groups on Saturday and promised to waive off loans farmers with land holding up to five acres following protests in western and central Maharashtra.

“Most of the people staging protests are not real farmers. They are political workers. I am willing to talk with anyone to resolve the problems of farmers but not those who have political intentions,” Fadnavis said.

The Maharashtra government is likely to end up spending about Rs 30,000 crore to write off these loans. The decision that will come into effect by October 31 is expected to benefit 31 lakh farmers, who have not been able to access crop loans for the past four to five years.

Fadnavis added he would set up a committee of government officials, which will have farmers’ representatives, to work out details of the loan waiver. He also promised a mechanism to ensure that the farmers are protected against falling prices of agricultural commodities.

While several representatives called off their strike following Fadnavis’ assurance, some farmers’ outfits decided to continue with the agitations and even organised a Maharashtra bandh on Monday.

These outfits — now joined by late Sharad Joshi led Shetkari Sanghatana and BJP ally MP Raju Shetti led Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana — are demanding for a complete farm loan waiver for all the 1.34 crore farmers in the state.

The opposition Congress-Nationalist Congress Party, as well as BJP ally Shiv Sena, are demanding complete loan waiver.

It is still getting a response in parts of the state mostly in western, central (Marathwada) and a few districts in north Maharashtra. Farmers came out in groups on streets and highways expressing solidarity and tried to block trucks carrying vegetables and milk to cities such as Mumbai and Pune.

The protest may also affect Mumbai’s supply of vegetables, fruits and milk as milk collection in Kolhapur, the biggest milk producing district in the state, as farmers there decided not to collect milk as a mark of protest. The shortage in supply may once again result in a steep rise in the prices of vegetables and fruits.

In a related development, a 21-member core committee comprising all prominent farmers leaders in Maharashtra and agricultural experts will meet in Nashik on Tuesday to chalk out the future course of the agitation.

According to reports, NCP chief Sharad Pawar called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi apparently to seek his attention to the farmers’ agitation in Maharashtra.

Fadnavis also has called a meeting of BJP ministers late in the evening to discuss the situation.

He has two challenges at hand. First, to put an end to the agitations and second, mobilise Rs 30,000 crore for the loan waiver. The state is not exactly in a good financial condition with a debt of over Rs 4 lakh crore. Fadnavis has even explored the option of assistance by the Centre but the latter is not keen.

Union urban development minister M Venkaiah Naidu, who was in Mumbai on Tuesday, categorically ruled out any loan waiver package or aid by the Centre to the state to write off the loans.

“Uttar Pradesh, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh have announced loan waivers on their own and Maharashtra will have to follow the same,” Naidu told reporters.

First Published: Jun 06, 2017 17:15 IST