Maharashtra farmers strike: Fear of short supply of essential commodities looms, state govt unwilling to budge

Distressed over falling prices of agriculture produce and other issues, farmers of Maharashtra’s 15 districts on Thursday started an indefinite agitation demanding a loan waiver and higher prices for their produce from the government.

Farmers spill out milk on a road during their state-wide protest in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. PTI (PTI6_1_2017_000214B)

Farmers spill out milk on a road during their state-wide protest in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. PTI

The strike was announced after talks between Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and their representatives failed on Tuesday, reported Hindustan Times.

In some parts of the state, farmers stopped vehicles and vandalized them, reported LiveMint, adding trucks carrying vegetables, fruits, milk, poultry products and meat to cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Aurangabad bore the brunt of the farmers’ ire.

Western Maharashtra is being seen as the region worst affected by the strike with incidents of milk tankers being emptied and vegetables thrown on roads in Ahmednagar, Niphad and Sangamner are reported.

Though Mumbai-based traders claimed they have not been affected by the stir as of now, they fear supplies from production centres across the state would be affected in the coming days if the strike prolongs, reported The Times of India.

The chief minister has taken a tough stance on the issue and has refused to agree on the farmers' demand of a loan-waiver. He has blamed the Opposition for instigating the farmers.

“Leading politicians, who failed to get a response to their Sangharsh Yatra are instigating the farmers,'' said Fadnavis, reported The Times of India.

Reference of the yatra by Fadnavis is significant because during the budget session in March this year, The Opposition had marched across the state by organising Sangharsha Yatra asking the government for a loan-waiver for the farmers.

The yatra however turned into a political war of words with the ruling parties mocking the Opposition leaders for travelling in air-conditioned cars.

The Opposition is again pressing the government for a loan-waiver for the farmers, but considering the precarious financial situation of the state, Fadnavis is unwilling to accept the demand.

Fadnavis is rather trying a multi-pronged approach of rural welfare schemes, technology and financial aid whose results are mixed at best.

Milind Murugkar, a policymaker and economist, said the strike is the manifestation of the unrest in farmers for the past three years.

"Agriculture growth was 3.6 percent when the BJP government came to power. It has come down to 1.7 percent now. Though drought was one of the reasons behind the decrease in growth rate, it's not the only reason. Government policies are responsible too,” Murugkar said.

Murugkar further said that government policies are also responsible for the present crisis.

"Industrial job creation is also low. The government has announced many policies and projects for farmers, but the benefits are not reaching the masses. Only 24 percent farmers are covered under Pradhanmantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY). The government announced 22 irrigation projects but none of them have been completed. Demonetisation has had a large impact. Prices of agricultural produce fell after demonitisation," he added.

Updated Date: Jun 02, 2017 12:50 PM

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