Raju Shetti, president of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), Tuesday ended his ‘Atmaklesh Yatra’ (journey of repentance) — a statewide campaign against the BJP-led combine’s anti-farmer policies — with a threat to stop the supply of milk and vegetables to major cities in the state, including Mumbai and Pune, if farmers’ demands were not fulfilled within 30 days. Shetti was in Mumbai after leading a nine-day ‘Padyatra’ from Pune to the state capital, after having broken ranks from the government. His party was an important ally of the BJP-Sena, helping swing the agrarian vote.
Shetti has given the government a 30-day ultimatum to fulfil the demands of farmers, including farm loan waiver and better minimum support prices (MSP) for farm produce.
The final day of the Yatra saw the congregation of a few thousands travel from Parel to Byculla Zoo, where the leader addressed a huge crowd of around 20,000 farmers.
Following this, a 30-member core committee led by Shetti met Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao and submitted to him 6.5 lakh forms signed by farmers across the state along with a charter of demands. “We have decided to give a 30-day ultimatum to the state government to fulfil our demands or face the wrath of farmers. We will cut the supply of milk and vegetables across the state as a protest,” Shetti said.
Hitting out at Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, Shetti said, “We have come walking all the way from Pune. During the nine-day-long march, none of the ministers of this government visited us. We are no criminals. We walked for the cause of farmers. They should be ashamed to mete out such treatment to us. I am not hungry for power, let my farmer brothers decide and I shall resign.”
Other demands include free power supply to agricultural pumps, interest-free loans and implementation of the Swaminathan Committee’s recommendations.
Shetti added, “Farmers have not been getting good prices and are burdened by debt, leading to farmer suicides. Farmers in Maharashtra have faced two consecutive droughts and the recent unseasonal showers have damaged yield in parts of Marathwada.”
Maharashtra has reported 852 farmers’ suicides in the four months between January and April this year, according to government data.
Meanwhile, Shetti’s party colleague and minister of state for agriculture Sadabhau Khot worked to hold discussions with various farmer organisations to assure them that the government was keen to resolve the agrarian crisis.
Shetti has openly expressed his displeasure with Khot for appearing to tie the government line.
On Tuesday when Shetti was concluding his nine-day walk, Khot met key farmer leaders to discuss the government’s stand on the farmers’ issues.
Khot met Jayajirao Suryavanshi of Annadaata Shetkari Sanghatana, other farmer leaders Dhananjay Jadhav, Anil Ghanvat, Sushila Morale, Suhas Vahadane, Vijay Kakade, Sanjat Darekar, Yogesh Rayte, Sandeep Gite and Dr. Rajendra Pipaada at Puntamba, a market town in Ahmednagar district.
Khot said, “I am a farmer’s son. I am working in the government as a farmers’ representative. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has been continuously following up the issue of farmers with the Centre. There will be a positive decision in the matter soon.”