In a major embarrassment for Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, hours after the Kisan Kranti on Saturday announced its decision to “withdraw” the two-day-old statewide strike, leaders of various associations rejected its call and continued their agitation. The “withdrawal” announcement came after a meeting between the government and a delegation of Kisan Kranti core committee members early on Saturday. “Since the government has conceded 70 percent of our demands, we have decided to call off the strike,” said core committee member Dhananjay Jadhav after the meeting. However, in a virtual somersault a few hours later, another core committee leader Jayaji Suryawanshi apologised for the decision, admitting to media persons that “it was error to withdraw the strike without consulting all other farmers groups”.
Another prominent agitation leader and Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana chief Raju Shetti dismissed the developments saying the core committee members were “inexperienced” in negotiating with the government on their pending issues. Several important farmers groups and leaders questioned the competence of the core committee delegation in unilaterally calling off the agitation. Farmer leaders from Karad, Sangli, Panjabrao Patil and Sachin Nalavade, said the strike “continues as usual” as the government has not given anything in writing.
They added that the proposed Maharashtra Bandh call on Monday, lockout of government offices on Tuesday and ‘gherao’ (siege) of offices of legislators and ministers in the state programmes also remain unchanged.Another important farmers leader Raghunath Patil said: “There’s no question of calling off the agitation. It continues. This is time for action, not assurances.”
He rejected contentions that the farmers’ agitation had split and said a majority of the organisations are in the dark about what transpired at the meeting on Saturday.Hitting back, Fadnavis said in Beed that the government is open to the crucial issue of farm loans waiver on which a decision will be taken by October 31.”We will set up a committee which will include farmers representatives within a month to go into waiver question and other demands,” said Fadnavis, accusing the opposition parties of attempting to drive a wedge among the farmers.
The Kisan Kranti Core Committee from Puntambe in Ahmednagar had made seven major demands: complete farm loans waiver package, total implementation of the M.S. Swaminathan Committee report, adequate minimum support prices, zero interest credit to farmers, pension for farmers above 60 years, Rs 50 per litre price for milk, uninterrupted power supply to farms and full subsidy for drip/sprinkler irrigation.
Several other agitated leaders and activists alleged that the government was trying to divide and break the farmers agitation for political interests.Shiv Sena MP Sanjay Raut said the strike has not ended, while Congress’s former Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Nationalist Congress Party called upon the Bharatiya Janata Party to fulfil its poll promises and write off farm-debts without any delay.
As the allegations and counter-allegations continued, farmers agitation was in full swing in several districts with activists emptying tankers carrying milk and trucks transporting fruits/vegetables on the roads intended for different markets.Amidst the confusing and politically-charged scenario, it remained unclear whether supplies of fresh milk, fruits, vegetables and foodgrains would resume to major urban and semi-urban centres which have experienced acute shortages coupled with soaring prices.The picture is expected to clear at a major meeting of various farmers leaders and groups scheduled on Sunday, according to the Core Committee.