Maharashtra farmers' strike: It's time Devendra Fadnavis govt turns focus on the agrarian crisis, cuts out middlemen

Instead of the vested interests, the government should focus on farmers' issues — unremunerative pricing, absence of assured irrigation, debts to the extent of insolvency, high suicide rate, middlemen’s racketeering, lack of cold storage.

Mahesh Vijapurkar June 02, 2017 18:14:33 IST
Maharashtra farmers' strike: It's time Devendra Fadnavis govt turns focus on the agrarian crisis, cuts out middlemen

If there’s a single statement of note made by any politician on the ongoing farmers' strike, it is by Sharad Pawar. “It is high time that politicos gave them (the farmers) their due,” he was quoted as saying by The Hindu. Amid an “agrarian crisis”, the farmers have taken to the streets in an “unprecedented move”, he said.

Maharashtra farmers strike Its time Devendra Fadnavis govt turns focus on the agrarian crisis cuts out middlemen

A view of APMC vegetable market on the second day of farmers' strike in Navi Mumbai on Friday. PTI

As an agriculture minister, Pawar had once equated high retail prices of farm produce as beneficial to the farmers overlooking the simple fact that the middlemen played havoc. That profiteering is the reason why the later state government released the farmers from the obligation to sell only from agricultural markets, which function more like cartels than facilitators.

Secondly, farmers taking to the streets is not unprecedented. In the 1980s, Sharad Joshi had brought together farmers to agitate and question the prices offered to them. During one particular agitation in 1980, onion growers had abandoned unremunerative produce on the road. It was not as symbolic as milk being poured on the streets though both might appear the same.

The second and an equally significant statement was made by Shiv Sena spokesperson Sanjay Raut. Instead of the vested interests, the government should focus on farmers' issues — unremunerative pricing, absence of assured irrigation, debts to the extent of insolvency, high suicide rate, middlemen’s racketeering, lack of cold storage, he said.

Look at the middlemen’s role. Even before the arrivals of produce go down, they hike the prices. Though the normal arrivals, as reported by The Times of India, is around 450 to 500 trucks per day at the Vashi agricultural wholesale market, on Thursday, it was 430 trucks, however, that does not warrant increasing the vegetable prices and the subsequent spiraling in the retail market.

The farmers have strategically chosen the time to strike. The monsoon is edging towards the state, the preparatory work like ploughing would have been done, and the sowing is just around the corner. If the strike continues for a tad longer, it would only mean a delay of few days. It is unlikely that they would suspend farming till all demands, including loan waivers, are met.

Even Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis must be of the view that the agitation will not last long as the rains are due and therefore, he remains steadfast about not granting any loan waivers. If the seeds have already been bought, either by cash or on loan, then the farmers would turn to sowing.

Now, the strike is about not sending the produce for sale and not about staying away from farming. The strike, currently, involves perishable items like vegetables and milk which also explains why the major vegetable and fruit producing areas have shown stronger activity.

 

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