The Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) on Monday held demonstrations in Solapur to highlight the plight of dairy farmers reeling under severe financial crisis in the state. The party has planned protests at Ahmednagar on August 20 and Satara on August 23.
Western Maharashtra is home to a large number of dairy farmers. SSS president Raju Shetti expressed disappointment with the Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray-led government for its “apathy towards dairy farmers”.
“Farmers will not commit suicide. Instead, they have decided to come out on the streets and fight. The farmers are ready to face police lathicharge and bullets,” he said.
Addressing the farmers at Solapur, Shetti said, “I have written letters on the farmers’ problems to Thackeray. The CMO response is limited to acknowledging my letter. They have not done anything to address the problems.”
Recalling similar dairy farmers’ agitations under his leadership in 2007, Shetti said, “The then chief minister late Vilasrao Deshmukh was in America. I received a telephone call at 2 am. Deshmukh promised he would concede to all the demands of farmers. He urged then home minister R R Patil to convene a meeting with us and resolve the farmers’ issues.”
“Deshmukh was quick to act because he understood farmers’ problems. He came from the grassroots. Farmers’ issues were always accorded highest priority,” he said. “It is sad the present leadership’s priorities are different. But SSS will not relent and continue its agitation across the state,” he added.
The party presented a letter to Solapur district collector listing out its demands for farmers. The SSS has demanded subsidy of Rs 5 per litre for milk and Rs 25 per kg for skimmed milk powder immediately.
It urged the state government to initiate steps to ensure higher prices for milk procured from dairy farmers. The prices at present have come down to Rs 15 per litre from Rs 27 per litre.
The SSS also holds the Centre equally responsible for the farmers’ crisis. Shetti demanded that the Centre should ban the import of skimmed milk powder. The goods and services tax on all milk products such as butter, sweets etc should be waived completely. These are necessary to raise the demand for milk, he said.