JUST over two months since farmers in Maharashtra ended their 11-day strike, a subsequent round of agitation began on Monday to a lukewarm response in most parts of the state, and a good response from a couple of districts.
Farmers body Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana decided not to be part of the road blockade.
The steering committee of the farmers’ movement had called for a chakka jam to protest against what they say was an “eyewash” loan waiver announced by the state government. Several farmers’ leaders had rejected the Rs 34,000 crore farm loan waiver announced by the state government in response to the farmers’ strike in June. Farmers feel that their initial demand of a complete loan waiver has not been met. The agitating group stated that it has not helped all farmers in the state.
In response to the call, farmers had stopped traffic in various parts of the state with districts of Nashik, Buldhana, Sangli, Kolhapur, Parbhani and others leading the protest. Swabhimani Paksha MP Raju Shetti, along with Ravikant Tupkar, had stopped traffic near Khamgaon in Buldhana district. State minister for agriculture Pandurang Fundkar who hails from Khamgaon and 500-1,000 farmers had participated in the chakka jam. Hansraj Wadgule, a Swambhimani Paksha leader in Nashik, said the response was good in Nashik.
Puntamba, the village in Ahmednagar district that had passed the gram sabha resolution of farmers’ strike had seen lukewarm response to the chakka jam. Local resident Dr Dhananjay Dhanvate said the villagers had stopped traffic near their village for some time. “People have lost their initial enthusiasm about the movement. The response was lukewarm from other parts of the district,” he said. Dhanvate said for farmers, the most pressing issue at present was the absence of rains.
In Palghar district, farmers took part in the protest by dancing on the roads to hold up traffic. In Nashik, there were Rasta Roko at various places. Pilgrims to the temple town of Trimbakeshwar faced the brunt of the agitation, with a large congregation arriving in town to observe the Shravan Somwar (Monday) getting delayed. Traffic into Trimbakeshwar was held up for over an hour until the protesters could be dispersed by the police.
In Wardha, Independent MLA Bacchu Kadu held a protest in which an effigy of Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was burned. At Kranti Chowk in Aurangabad, protesters blocked traffic and shouted slogans, leading to the police resorting to a mild cane charge to disperse the crowd.
In Dharur, Beed district, farmers squatted on the road and blocked the highway. Farmers also staged protests in Puntamba and Rahuri in Ahmednagar district, the ground zero of the previous agitation.
The APMCs in the state were largely unaffected, and officials said supply of produce was not affected. In Nandurbar, around 7,000 farmers of Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha held up traffic at Visarwadi on the Surat Nagpur Highway for over three hours. In Nashik, protesters blocked the Mumbai-Agra Highway, Nashik-Aurangabad, Nashik-Trimbakeshwar, Malegaon-Manmad and Nashik-Dindori highways.