A section of farmer leaders who met in Nashik Sunday decided they would proceed with the Maharashtra bandh called on June 5 and continue with the agitation for at least four more days to press for their demands. Farmers across Maharashtra have been on an indefinite protest since June 1, demanding, among other things, a complete farm loan waiver, implementation of the Swaminathan Committee’s recommendations, an increase in the procurement price of milk and a pension scheme.
The strike has adversely affected supplies of vegetables and milk to wholesale markets across the state and led to an increase in prices. On Saturday, the Maharashtra government announced a farm loan waiver of Rs 30,000 crore, the biggest such write-off for farmers in the state yet. The announcement caused a division among farmer leaders, with one section of the Kisan Kranti Manch — the umbrella organisation leading the protest — becoming the target of others who said they were not taken into confidence before the waiver was announced.
“In today’s meeting, it has been decided that we will carry on with our protest and there will be a state-wide bandh on June 5. We also plan to hold a convention of farmers on June 8 where the future course of action will be decided,” said Ajit Navale, general secretary of the Maharashtra Kisan Sabha. The farmer leaders will meet once again on June 6 and hold a statewide farmers’ meeting on June 8 in Nashik.
The farmers have claimed that they expect a complete shutdown of the state on June 5 and made an appeal to the common people to be a part of the strike. The delegation of farmers also refused to meet Nashik Guardian Minister Girish Mahajan who has set up base in the district to monitor the situation. A semblance of normality was restored in various agriculture product markets in the state. Vegetable-laden trucks under police protection entered various agriculture product market committees. Nearly 970 trucks laden with farm produce entered Vashi market between late Saturday night and early Sunday morning. Pune too saw nearly 920 trucks coming to the market.
“The prices are still on the higher side. We need to see how things pan out on Monday during the strike that has been called by a section of farmers,” said Ashok Shinde, a trader at the Vashi market. There were stray incidents of violence. In Dalwat, nearly 200-300 protesters had stopped a truck offloaded tomatoes on the road. The mob is also alleged to have thrown stones at a police vehicle after which the police fired in the air to restrain the mob.
A case has been filed against 150 unknown people by the Nashik rural police. Farmers protested in Hingoli district too. Meanwhile, reports have emerged of clashes between agriculture produce market committees and local farmers, with one case in Western Maharashtra reaching the police. Most APMCs in the state are controlled by Congress and NCP leaders, and some farmers have alleged that they are being “forced to not sell their produce”.
In Barsi taluka, farmer Gahininath Parshuram Raut has filed a complaint with the police and sought help from the government. His letter shared with the media Sunday reads: “On June 3, I set out with my fresh farm vegetables towards the APMC. I had vegetables worth Rs 1,600. I parked in the market and was waiting for payment but local NCP taluka chief Nandkumar Kashid and Panchayat Samiti group leader Sunderrao Jagdale warned me against selling vegetables. They destroyed my vegetables. Now, who will repay the loss?” The Barsi police have registered an offence against the leaders under sections 143, 149 and 427 of the IPC. “We are not in favour of destroying anyone’s farm produce. (Party chief) Sharad Pawar has said they should distribute the food and milk among the poor,” a state NCP leader, who did not wish to be named, said in response to the report.