MAJOR Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) shut operations on Thursday after farmers decided to stop supplying their produce as a mark of protest against the government for not acceding to their demand for a crop loan waiver. On the first day of the ‘strike’, there were reports of farmers turning violent and clashing with police while trying to stop vegetable-laden vehicles from entering local markets.
In Yeola, Nashik district, the state police launched tear gas and fired rubber bullets to disperse a stone-pelting mob. One person and five policemen were injured.
The incident took place near Jalal toll booth where protesting farmers reportedly stopped over 100 vehicles carrying vegetables and threw the produce on the road.
The mob allegedly first burned down a vehicle over rumours that it was carrying beef. After that, the protesters started searching each vehicle that passed through the stretch and threw items found in those on the road. Some of the protesters also looted vehicles that were carrying oil and ghee, after which the State Reserve Police Force was called in. The mob then pelted the police with stones and five policemen were injured.
The police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the mob. “One youth, 35-year-old Yashwant Jadhav, was injured in police action and five of our men were injured due to stone-pelting by the locals,” Nashik S P Ankush Shinde said.
Incidents of violence also took place in areas like Niphad in Nashik district and Kopargaon, in Ahmednagar district. In several other incidents across Maharashtra, farmers blocked roads and vandalised vehicles ferrying vegetables.
In places like Satara and Shirdi, farmers demanding a Minimum Support Price of Rs 50 per litre of milk threw milk on the streets as a mark of protest.
The state-wide protest, however, did not have an immediate impact on major cities like Mumbai, where major APMCs like Vashi operated as usual. But local traders said that the situation is likely to deteriorate from tomorrow as the intensity of the protest increases.
“We received close to 550-600 vegetable-laden vehicles in the market on Thursday that is close to the normal inflow of produce. However, we are apprehending that things will go bad from Friday as the agitation picks up. The market usually remains closed on Sundays and the city may end up feeling the pinch of the strike from the beginning of the new week,” Ashok Shinde, a trader at the Vashi APMC, said.
Vegetable vendors at Borivali and Ville Parle (East) markets are worried fearing a rise in supply prices from Friday. “Although the supply prices have not increased yet, we apprehend the trouble to start tomorrow with a shortage in supply and rise in prices of vegetables,” said Ashok Kumar, a vendor at Borivali market.
The Vile Parle (East) market seemed more affected, with supply prices already having increased by Rs 10-15 on Thursday, according to vegetable vendor Ram Vinay. “Although the prices have not increased, less vegetables were supplied to us.
On Friday, the supply will be even less,” said Ghanshyam Kandu, another vendor.
In Nashik district, all 12 APMCs remained empty with farmers refraining from bringing their produce to the market. Nashik supplies a bulk of the fresh vegetables that come to Mumbai. The total turnover of these 12 APMCs is around Rs 23 crore per day, which came to a grinding halt. “The APMC remained open but hardly any farmer came in with their produce,” said Vilas Shinde, a trader from Nashik APMC.
In Ahmednagar district, there were reports of milk and vegetables being thrown on the streets by farmers. In Pune APMC, too, supply of vegetables was affected. “We generally get 1,100 vehicles in the market every day. On Thursday, we received only 725. The number will go down. Prices shot up by 10-20 per cent in the market and it will go on if the condition prevails,” Vilas Bhujbal, a trader in Pune APMC, said.
Farmers have stopped sending their produce to markets across the state as part of a protest to seek loan waiver from the state government.
Some of the major demands of the farmers are that the state should clear the 7/12 extracts that are property documents of farmers from all liabilities.
The farmers are seeking interest-free loans, a pension scheme for farmers over 60 years, uninterrupted power supply and a minimum support price of Rs 50 per litre of milk.
“Nearly 99 per cent of the farmers from our village did not send their produce to the markets. This is a do-or-die situation for us. We do not get proper price for our produce. We have a situation where onion gets sold at Rs 2 per kg. How can the farmers afford to sell at this price? Going on strike hurts us financially but we hope that this temporary hardship will provide us long term relief,” Zakir Mulani, a farmer from Akluj in Solapur district, said.
As tonnes of perishable goods like vegetables and milk were on the line, some farmers found ingenious ways of preserving their produce to use them once the strike ends. Some farmers in Ahmednagar turned their milk into khoya and basundi for future use. Big land owners in Nashik district opened up their cold storage units for stocking up the produce of local farmers.
Although there was solidarity amongst the farmers and traders, instances of protesting farmers been beaten up by the public were reported.
In Aurangabad, APMC farmers who were trying to implement the strike were assaulted by local traders opposed to the move. “Around 20 per cent farmers did not take part in the strike and brought their produce to the market. We were requesting them not to do so when we were assaulted by local traders,” Jayaji Suryavanshi, an activist from Aurangabad said.