A section of farmer leaders that met in Nashik on Sunday decided they would proceed with a Maharashtra bandh they had called on June 5 and continue with their agitation for their agrarian demands for at least four more days. 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 state 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 — the umbrella organisation which led 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 was decided that we will carry on with our protest and a state-wide bandh will be on June 5. We also plan to hold a convention of farmers on June 8 where the future course of action will be decided,” Ajit Navale, the general secretary of the Maharashtra Kisan Sabha, said. The farmer leaders will meet once again on June 6 and will then hold a statewide farmers’ meeting on June 8 in Nashik. The farmers said they expect a complete shutdown of the state on June 5 and made an appeal to the common people to join the strike.
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.
There were stray incidents of violence. In Dalwat, nearly 300 protesters stopped a tomato carrying truck and offloaded its contents on the road. The mob is also alleged to have thrown stones at a police vehicle. The police opened fire in the air to restrain the mob. Farmers also protested in Hingolo district. A section of farmers said they were incited by the NCP to not sell their produce in the markets.
At Barsi talulka in western Maharashtra, farmer Gahininath Parshuram Raut lodged a police complaint, saying: “On June 3, I set out with my fresh farm vegetables towards Agriculture Produce Market Committee. I had vegetables worth Rs 1,600. I parked my vegetables in the market and was waiting for the money, but local NCP taluka chief Nandkumar Kashid and panchayat samilti group leader Sunderrao Jagdale warned we should stop growing vegetables. They destroyed my vegetables.”
Several farmers said the Congress and NCP, which controlled the agri markets, were exploiting them to serve their politics. However, a state NCP leader, requesting anonymity, said: “We are not in favour of destroying anybody’s farm produce.”