The Maharashtra bandh announced by farmers Monday received substantial support in the rural parts of the state, but in urban areas, including Mumbai, it was business as usual. In Nashik district, which has emerged as the epicentre of the second phase of the farmers’ agitation, the bandh was near complete. The administration had to cut off internet services for a few hours anticipating trouble.
The call for Monday’s bandh had been given by a section of farmer leaders unhappy with the decision of the Kisan Kranti Morcha to call off their agitation after a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis last Friday. With many protesters claiming that the leaders who met the CM had left the state’s farmers in the lurch for personal gains, a new leadership emerged, which is now planning to take the agitation forward.
During a meeting held in Nashik on Sunday, a new coordination committee for the agitation was announced, comprising 21 leaders from various farmers’ organisation.
“It has been decided to set up a new coordination committee. As of now, it consists of 21 people, including leaders like Raju Shetti, Bacchu Kadu and Raghunanathdada Patil. More will be incorporated as people join us. The purpose of this committee is to nurse this injured movement back on track,” farmer leader Dr Giridhar Patil, who is part of the committee, said. The committee will now hold a major gathering on June 8 in Nashik to finalise its strategy.
While their strike call had noticeable effects in rural areas of North Maharashtra and Marathwada, the agricultural market produce committees (APMCs) in places like Mumbai and Pune functioned smoothly. Mumbai saw a supply of over 1,000 trucks in the Vashi APMC, of which nearly 450 were carrying vegetables. The supply ensured that prices of vegetables stabilised.
“We received nearly 400 vegetable-laden vehicles Monday, of which nearly 30 per cent were from within the state. This is higher than over the past few days. Today, prices in the market have come down by nearly 15 to 20 per cent,” Kailash Tajne, president of the APMC vegetable market, said.
On Monday, the prices of cucumber came down from Rs 80 per kg to Rs 40, cluster beans from Rs 60 to Rs 40, while the price of chillies was stagnant at Rs 50. There had been a spike in the prices of vegetables after farmers refrained from sending their produce to APMCs last week.
Most APMCs in North Maharashtra remained shut on Monday. In Marathwada too, only a few places like Osmanabad witnessed much activity.
In the Nashik APMC, not a single vehicle turned up for the fifth consecutive day. While the impact was hardly felt in Nashik city, the rest of the district remained completely shut.
In Nashik city, the police detained nearly 50 Shiv Sainiks trying to enforce the bandh. There were similar protests in areas like Chandwad. Nandurbar district saw a bulk of the residents and farmers taking active part in the bandh. In Dhule district too, most of the APMCs remained shut. In Marathwada, shops in Nanded remained shut.
Some of the major demands of the farmers are that the state clear their 7/12 extracts (property documents) of all liabilities. They want interest-free loans, a pension scheme for farmers above the age of 60, uninterrupted power supply and a minimum support price of Rs 50 per litre for milk.
Fadnavis on Friday had with a group of farmers and announced some sops. While some activists have claimed the state’s assurances would not help farmers, a section of farmer leaders say they are happy with the government’s response.
“Just going on a strike was never our aim. We wanted to get some relief for farmers and in the meeting with the CM, we managed that. Nearly 70 per cent of our demands were met by the government and because of that, we withdrew our strike. We are not a part of this agitation,” said Dhananjay Jadhav, a member of the Kisan Kranti Morcha who met the CM.