For the third consecutive day on Saturday, farmers in Maharashtra protested against the government by pouring milk and throwing vegetables out on the streets. Prices of vegetables and fruits shot up following shortages and Mumbai reeled with fewer trucks arriving in the city with vegetables, milk and fruits.
While the Kisan Kranti Morcha (KKM) on Saturday morning called off the indefinite strike, following assurances by Chief Minister (CM) Devendra Fadnavis that most of their demands would be conceded, several farmers’ organisations refused to withdraw the strike and distanced themselves from the core committee.
The strike was marred by stray cases of violence involving farmers roughing up drivers of milk tankers and emptied the tankers of milk.
Disgruntled farmers have been demanding that Maharashtra also announce a ‘complete farm loan waiver’, as has been done in Uttar Pradesh by the Yogi Adityanath government, within two months.
Fadnavis, in turn, warned that while genuine farmers would be spared the long arm of the law, people who instigated the farmers would not be spared. The state government has been accusing Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) of instigating the farmers.
As many as 40 farmers’ organisations had launched an indefinite strike this week on June 1 demanding farm loan waivers, free electricity, grants for irrigation, free electricity, remunerative prices and pension for farmers over the age of 60 years and the implementation of the recommendations made by the MS Swaminathan Committee on Agriculture.
The Swaminathan Committee, among other things, had recommended a Minimum Support Price (MSP) of 50% higher than the weighted average cost of production. The Committee, also known as the National Commission on Agriculture, submitted its reports between 2004 and 2006.
Fadnavis held a four-hour long meeting with farmers’ delegation led by KKM before agreeing that loan waivers would be provided to small and marginal farmers who are no longer covered by the institutional credit system.
Several farmer organisations were upset because the state government offered to set up a committee to finalise details of the waiver and complete the process by October.
The government also offered to introduce a Bill to make buying agricultural produce below the minimum support price (MSP) a criminal offence. Fadnavis assured the farmers that the price of milk would be raised by June 20. A scheme to subsidise farmers’ pending power bills and setting up a chain of cold storages and withdrawing criminal cases against ‘genuine farmers’ were some of the other sops held out by the government.
The strike has been marred by several violent incidents. Farmers had earlier called for a complete shutdown on Monday and it is not clear if the strike has petered out.