Maharashtra farmer’s strike to time with 3-year anniversary of Modi govt
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Mumbai: The ‘Sangharsha Yatra’ launched by all opposition parties in Maharashtra to demand a farm loan waiver may have ended but chief minister Devendra Fadnavis is unlikely to see any let-up in the farmers’ protest across the state.
What is worse for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led state government in Maharashtra is that the farmers have decided to time their protest with the mega celebrations planned in the state to mark the third anniversary of the Narendra Modi government.
The BJP plans to hold a ‘Shivar Samvad Yatra’ (Farm Dialogue March) from 25 to 28 May in all 40,000-plus villages of the state to reach out to farmers. But disparate groups of farmers and political parties including those in alliance with the BJP have called for novel ways of protests during the same period to embarrass the BJP.
On 22 May, Swambhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), currently an ally of the BJP in the state and a constituent of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, launched a ‘self-atonement march’ from Pune to Mumbai on 22 May, to ‘atone for the blunder of allying with the BJP and supporting Narendra Modi’. Raju Shetty, SSS founder and Member of Parliament from Hatkanangle, said at the launch that farmers in Maharashtra were feeling “let-down and betrayed” by three years of the Modi rule. “Farmers believed Modi and the promises that he made during the 2014 election campaign. But he has betrayed our faith and we have launched this protest to atone for our mistake of believing him,” Shetty said at the launch. A BJP minister, who did not wish to be named, however, dismissed Shetty’s agitation as “sign of internal troubles within the SSS”. The BJP minister pointed out that SSS legislator Sadabhau Khot was a minister of state in the Fadnavis government and Shetty did not want him to continue. “Shetty wants Khot to resign and join the protest. Shetty is taking SSS away from the NDA but unless Khot resigns the protest will not have any impact,” the BJP minister said.
In Ahmednagar district, a section of farmers has decided to go on a strike from 1 June, perhaps a first of its kind protest by farmers in India. The farmers have decided to grow only what is necessary for their own consumption and stop their daily supplies of farm commodities like milk, fruits, eggs and poultry, and vegetables to the markets in neighbouring cities. Shetkari Sanghatana, one of the oldest and more organised farm organisations in the country, has supported this strike.
Before farmers go on strike from 1 June, they will sit on protest in Puntamba village of Ahmednagar district from 25 to 30 May, Raghunath Patil, Shetkari Sanghanata leader said. “This strike is not limited to one district or village. It will be state-wide and may spread to other states where farm suicides are happening,” he said.
The demands being made by the farmers are not new but the mode of protest has been chosen carefully to “serve notice to the government that farmers will no longer make sacrifice themselves by committing suicides,” Patil said. He said a number of studies had been done to find out the root causes of farm distress.
“The real reasons of farm distress are lack of remunerative prices for farm produce which factors in the cost of production as well as profit, regional imbalances in credit disbursement, and farmers’ failure to repay debt due to wrong cropping pattern encouraged by the government policies. All these years farmers committed suicides to lodge their protest but now time has come to make this an active protest by striking work,” Patil said.