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Business News/ Politics / Policy/  Maharashtra farmers’ protest cripples milk, vegetable and fruit supplies

Maharashtra farmers’ protest cripples milk, vegetable and fruit supplies

The Kisan Kranti Jan Andolan has called for a 'Maharashtra bandh' on 5 June

A vegetable market on the second day of the farmers’ strike in Navi Mumbai on Friday. Photo: PTIPremium
A vegetable market on the second day of the farmers’ strike in Navi Mumbai on Friday. Photo: PTI

Mumbai: Supplies of milk, vegetables, fruits and food grains to major cities in Maharashtra were severely affected on Friday as the farmers’ strike entered the second day. A number of markets operated by the agriculture produce marketing committee (APMC) remained shut as protesting farmers did not bring their produce to these markets.

Other APMC markets including the Vashi market in Navi Mumbai, the wholesale market for farm commodities catering to Mumbai and Thane, operated with low supplies.

Meanwhile, the Kisan Kranti Jan Andolan, which is spearheading the strike from Puntamba village in Ahmednagar district, on Friday decided to “continue and intensify the agitation" till the government accepted their seven demands. Sandip Gidde, member of the core committee of Kisan Kranti Jan Andolan, told Mint over the phone that the committee had decided on the steps to be taken to intensify the stir in the next few days. The committee has called for a Maharashtra bandh (except in Mumbai) on 5 June.

“We will not allow a single public and private vehicle on the roads of Maharashtra except ambulances and fire brigade tenders," Gidde said.

The agitation will be escalated on 6 June by locking up all government offices across Maharashtra, he added. On 7 June, the farmers will lock up the offices of all ministers in Maharashtra and legislators who have not supported the strike, Gidde said.

He added that representatives of the Kisan Kranti Jan Andolan had left Puntamba for Mumbai and would hold talks with chief minister Devendra Fadnavis on Friday night.

“We will call off the strike if all our demands are met," Gidde said.

Fadnavis had on Thursday evening appealed to protesting farmers to come forward for talks. However, two rounds of talks between the farmers and Fadnavis on 31 May failed to achieve a breakthrough.

On Friday, veteran social worker and anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare issued a press release supporting the strike and offering to mediate between the farmers and the government on behalf of the farmers.

The farmers on strike are demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation that farmers be paid 50% over and above the minimum support price as the cost of production, waiver of farm loans, zero interest credit supply to farmers, pension scheme for farmers who have attained the age of 60 years, Rs50 per litre price for milk, uninterrupted power supply to farms and 100% subsidy for drip and sprinkler irrigation.

On Friday, the intensity of the farmers’ protest was felt most in districts of Ahmednagar, Nashik, Pune, Solapur, Kolhapur, Sangli, Aurangabad, Hingoli, Jalgaon and some parts of Vidarbha as well. Farmers stopped vehicles carrying farm produce and milk. In Nashik and Solapur, thousands of litres of milk was spilled on roads by farmers. Major cities in Maharashtra like Mumbai, Pune and Thane receive their daily milk supplies from Ahmednagar, Nashik, Satara, Sangli, and Kolhapur districts.

“Milk supplies and arrivals of vegetables, fruits, and food grains were down by 82% according to our internal survey," Gidde said.

Shirish Kulkarni, deputy secretary of the onion and potato market at Navi Mumbai APMC, said only 84 trucks of potatoes had arrived on Friday. “Yesterday the market received 172 trucks carrying potato and onion. The arrivals went down by more than 50% today due to strike. Potato arrivals were not affected much as they come in safely-packed trucks from other states, which are difficult to target but not a single onion was supplied today," Kulkarni said.

The Lasalgaon APMC market in Nashik district, India’s biggest regulated wholesale market for onions which also supplies onions to Mumbai and Thane, remained shut on Thursday and Friday. On 31 May, before the strike began, the Lasalgaon market had received more than 25,000 quintals of onion.

According to the control room at the Navi Mumbai APMC, only 33 trucks of vegetables arrived on Friday against the normal daily intake of 750 vehicles. Only 105 trucks of fruits arrived as against the normal inflow of 550 and food grain supplies went down from 250 trucks per day to only 75 on Friday. At the Pune APMC, onion supplies went down from 8,499 quintals on Thursday to only 229 quintals on Friday. Potato supplies from local cultivators went down from 5,000 quintals on Thursday to 1,424 quintals on Friday.

The farmers’ strike also resonated with political parties. Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar issued a press release supporting the farmers. Pawar said the farmers’ strike was one of the most “humiliating" incidents in the history of Maharashtra and appealed the farmers to maintain their unity till their demands are fully met.

Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan also lent his party’s support to the farmers and said only a “blanket farm loan waiver" was the solution to the agrarian crisis. Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut warned the state government, in which Shiv Sena is a partner, against any attempt to crush the protest.

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Published: 02 Jun 2017, 10:58 PM IST
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