Dairy farmers in Maharashtra have threatened to take their ongoing protest to Mumbai and start distributing milk free of cost outside Mantralaya. While addressing the media in Pune on Saturday, All India Kisan Sabha general secretary Ajit Nawale said they intended to take the fight right outside Mantralaya if the state government failed to ensure payment at the rate of Rs 27 per litre to farmers by May 9.
Milk producers in the state have started distributing milk free of cost to protest against their low realisations. Most of the dairies are paying between Rs 19 and 22 per litre. Only Gokul — the cooperative union from Kolhapur — and a few other players are paying farmers at the rate of Rs 25 per litre of milk with 3.5 per cent fat and 8.5 per cent solid-not-fat. The dairies said a sharp fall in international prices of Skimmed Milk Powder (SMP), and imposition of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) on byproducts such as ghee, had hit their bottomline and they were unable to pay the government-declared rate of Rs 27 per litre.
Nawale said farmers were incurring a loss of Rs 10 per litre of milk, which has prompted them to go for the strike. He claimed that the strike had received support from farmers in Aurangabad, Ahmednagar, Pune, Satara, Sangli, Kolhapur, Solhapur, Beed and Parbhani. The idea of free distribution of milk had started from the village of Lakhganga in Aurangabad’s Vaijapur taluka, where the villagers had passed a resolution in the Gram Sabha in this regard.
Dhananjay Dhorde, member of the Dudh Utpadak Shetkari Sangharahs Samittee, said farmers had resorted to this unique form of Gandhigiri to draw attention to their woes. The ongoing strike, however, failed to evoke the desired response.
“We hope the government will take ample measures to ensure farmers get payment at the rate of Rs 27 per litre by May 9. If they fail to do so, we will have to escalate the protests,” said Nawale. The next stage will see dairy farmers marching to Mantralaya to distribute milk free of cost. “Like the long march, we will be mobilising farmers across the state to hold the rally,” he said. More than 40,000 farmers had walked from Nashik to Mumbai to highlight various issues in March.
Meanwhile, the deputy district registrar of cooperative milk unions issued notices for the dismissal of board of directors of 23 milk unions, who had failed to pay the government-declared rate. Nawale said dismissal of unions will not solve the matter.
Instead, the government should take up steps to ensure a fool-proof mechanism by which farmers are able to get the price, he said. The protesting farmers have also called for a mechanism to ensure private dairies are compelled to pay the government-declared rate. Of the 1.5 crore litres of milk collected in Maharashtra, private players corner 60 per cent, while cooperative unions report around 39 per cent collection. Aarey, the government-run dairy, has minimal collection.