Farmers’ strike in Maharashtra turns violent, food supplies hit
Mumbai: Farmers in at least seven districts of Maharashtra stopped and vandalized vehicles carrying farm produce to cities starting Thursday morning on the first day of an agitation called by various farmers’ organizations demanding higher prices for their produce and a debt waiver.
Vehicles carrying vegetables, fruits, milk, poultry products and meat to cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Aurangabad bore the brunt of their ire.
In Nashik district, the main supply market for Mumbai and Thane, farmers are also agitated about what they call forced acquisition of farm land for the proposed Mumbai-Nagpur ‘Samruddhi Corridor’ (Prosperity Corridor), which is 800-km-plus-long and is aimed to cut road travel time between the two cities from 13-14 hours to 8 hours and provide port connectivity to 16 districts.
The districts which witnessed farmers’ protests include Ahmednagar, Nashik, Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur, Nanded and Jalgaon. These districts are the main suppliers of vegetables, fruits, milk, poultry products, and meat to western Maharashtra, Mumbai, Marathwada and north Maharashtra. However, the Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) market yard in Navi Mumbai’s Vashi did not witness any immediate impact of the strike, according to Ashok Walunj, one of the directors on the APMC board, who represents the onion and potato market.
“The strike won’t have much impact today because the vegetable and fruit stocks have been offloaded yesterday only. Strike may affect supplies later today. Except onion, between 50% to 60% vegetables that arrive in most APMC markets in Maharashtra are from neighbouring states like Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka. We will have to see what impact the strike has tomorrow on supplies coming from the neighbouring states as well as hinterlands of Maharashtra,” Walunj told Mint on the phone.
A state government representative on the Vashi APMC said, requesting anonymity, that arrivals have been normal at Vashi APMC this morning. “We received around 450 vehicles of farm produce today morning which is normal,” the official said.
On 31 May, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis held two rounds of talks in Mumbai with representatives of the Kisan Kranti Sanghatana, a farmers’ organisation spearheading the strike in Puntamba village of Ahmednagar district. Fadnavis told the farmers that the government was making investment in the farm sector to find long-term solutions to the agrarian crisis. However, farmers reiterated the demand for a debt waiver and told the chief minister that the strike would begin from 1 June as planned.
If the strike continues, its impact will most likely be seen in Ahmednagar district which alone has around 3,500 milk collection centres and which together supply around 1 million litres of milk to other parts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai and Pune. All these milk centres are likely to participate in the strike; some of their members and farmers spilled milk on roads on Thursday morning to register their protest. In districts of Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur, Nanded, Jalgaon and Nashik, vegetable growers and milk cooperatives members protested in a similar fashion by dumping their produce on roads. Groups of farmers, particularly young farmers, positioned themselves on state highways and major roads and checked each transport carrier for farm produce. Vehicles carrying vegetables and fruits and other farm produce were stopped and vandalised at several points where arguments broke out between farmers and transporters.