Maharashtra farmers call off strike after Fadnavis govt accepts ‘70% demands’

Maharashtra accepts '70% demands' of striking farmers, CM Devendra Fadnavis says the government would provide debt-relief to small, marginal farmers by 31 Oct this year

Abhiram Ghadyalpatil
Updated3 Jun 2017, 09:37 AM IST
Maharashtra’s striking farmers say, “We felt that both the govt, farmers needed to work out a solution to this problem and since Fadnavis has accepted 70% of our demands we have decided to call off the strike. File photo: PTI
Maharashtra’s striking farmers say, “We felt that both the govt, farmers needed to work out a solution to this problem and since Fadnavis has accepted 70% of our demands we have decided to call off the strike. File photo: PTI

Mumbai: The core committee of Kisan Kranti Jan Andolan in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra called off the farmers’ strike early Saturday after chief minister Devendra Fadnavis assured them that the government would meet most of their demands in a time-bound programme. Members of the core committee who held talks with Fadnavis late Friday night in Mumbai said the government had accepted 70% of their demands and that they were satisfied with the government’s response. Fadnavis told reporters after the talks that the government would provide debt-relief to small and marginal farmers by 31 October this year.

In Maharashtra, there are 13.7 million farmers and nearly 78% are small and marginal.

The Kisan Kranti Jan Andolan had, however, demanded a blanket farm loan waiver but accepted the government’s contention that it was not a feasible option. “We did demand a full farm loan waiver but the government says that is not feasible. We felt that both government and farmers needed to work out a solution to this problem and since the government has accepted 70% of our demands we have decided to call off the strike,” said Dhananjay Jadhav, member of the core committee.

Though, In Nashik district, the core committee announced that they would continue the strike and were against any talks with the government till all their demands were fully met. The strike in Nashik—where it was launched on 1 June—was most violent and disruptive. However, with the main spearhead of this stir calling off the strike, the Maharashtra bandh call on 5 June stands withdrawn, according to the core committee member Sandip Gidde.

“We have decided to call off the strike after the chief minister assured us that 70% of our demands would be accepted. The core committee in Nashik, however, has decided to continue the strike because farmers there have an additional demand which is exclusive to Nashik district. They are opposing land acquisition for Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Corridor and want the project cancelled. But since this demand is confined to Nashik farmers only, we could not add it to our charter of demands for the farmers in the entire state. We decided to settle for the larger benefits we could get for most farmers,” Sandip Gidde, farmer and member of the core committee from Puntamba village in Ahmednagar district, told Mint on the phone. The Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Communication Superway (Mumbai-Nagpur Prosperity Corridor) is proposed to be a 710-km-expressway that brings down the travel time between Mumbai and Nagpur from 12 hours to 6-8 hours.

The core committee from Puntamba village, which had given the original call of strike in entire Maharashtra, had made seven demands — implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation that farm produce be paid 50% over and above the minimum support price as the cost of production, farm loan waiver, 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.

The committee members held talks with Fadnavis for around 4 hours late Friday night at the chief minister’s official residence ‘Varsha’ in Mumbai. Later, Fadnavis addressed a press conference at 3am on //Saturday along with the core committee members. He said the government would provide debt relief to small and marginal farmers till 31 October this year. “We are forming a committee of government officials and farmers’ representatives to study this issue and this committee will ensure that like in the previous loan waiver, no one misuses the loan waiver meant for farmers,” Fadnavis said. He said this scheme would benefit farmers whose crop credit had turned “outstanding” in 2012 and later. “The debt relief scheme would make these farmers eligible to take fresh credit,” he said.

He added that a new legislation would be brought in during the monsoon session of Maharashtra legislature in July to make purchase of farm produce below the minimum support price (MSP) a criminal offence. “We have also decided to form a state commission for agriculture costs and prices (CACP) within a month on the lines of the CACP under the union ministry of agriculture which recommends MSP for most farm commodities,” Fadnavis said. The government has also decided to raise the price of milk to make sure farmers who supply milk to co-operatives get a better remuneration, he said. “The quantum of this increase will be decided by 20 June. There are cases pointed out by milk farmers that they don’t get any benefit even when milk consumers have to pay a higher price and it is middlemen who benefit from this distortion. We are thinking of appointing an independent regulator to ensure that farmers get the benefit of a higher milk price,” Fadnavis said.

The government would waive off interest and penalty on pending electricity bills of farmers and establish a chain of cold storages and warehouses with help from farmers’ producing organisations, he said. “A subsidy-based scheme to establish processing units for perishable fruits would be brought in. Cases registered against farmers during this strike would be withdrawn,” Fadnavis said adding that cases registered against goons would not be withdrawn. On the harassment of farmers by micro-finance companies, Fadnavis said the state would study the measures that other states have taken to ensure that micro-finance companies do not exploit the farmers.

Even as the farmers called off the strike, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders told Marathi news channels that a complete farm loan waiver was the only solution to the agrarian crisis. News channels quoted farmers in Puntamba village saying that a blanket farm loan waiver was not feasible for any government as the government had to cater to several other priorities as well.

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First Published:3 Jun 2017, 09:37 AM IST
HomePoliticsPolicyMaharashtra farmers call off strike after Fadnavis govt accepts ‘70% demands’

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