The first-ever Maharashtra “shutdown” called by farmers organisations got a massive response across the state on Monday with minor incidents of violence on the fifth day of the ongoing farmers strike. The shutdown got enthusiastic response from several lakh aggressive farmers with many regular markets, locals markets and supplies of milk, fruits and vegetables paralysed since early in the day. For a change, all major political parties, including the ruling coalition constituent Shiv Sena, opposition Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Peasants and Workers Party, Left parties, various trade unions, NGOs, affiliated organisations and farmers groups wholeheartedly supported the statewide bandh.
Major milk suppliers like Gokul Dairy joined the strike along with fresh fruits and vegetables cultivators, but the milk federation in Mumbai kept off the shutdown on Monday. The day was marked with blocking of roads, state and national highways by burning tyres, an incident of blocking the railway line at Puntamba in Ahmednagar, at least five incidents of stoning and damaging buses of Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation, dharnas, processions, emptying truckloads of milk, fruits and vegetables, and other protests. Accusing Fadnavis of “betraying” them, farmers in Nashik and Osmanabad burnt his effigy and those in the latter place made a bonfire of large stocks of onion on the roads.
Nanded lawyers abstained from court work for a few hours to join the farmers-sponsored shutdown, while lawyers in Latur are expected to join the farmers on Tuesday. At least five state transport buses were damaged in stone-pelting incidents in Nanded and Osmanabad even as police rushed in to take control of the situation and prevent matters from escalating. In Osmanabad, farmers also resorted to a unique “topless” protest by removing their shirts/kurtas and squatting in markets or roads sporting their dhotis and pyjamas. Farmers locked the gates of the APMC markets in Solapur and squatted outside, while in Parbhani, all political parties joined a farmer-led procession and rally shouting anti-government slogans demanding their demands must be conceded.
Youths organisations joined farmers to ensure a total shutdown in Wardha and they offered flowers in a display of ‘Gandhigiri’ to truckers and transporters plying through the town. Blockades on roads, state and national highway were the norm in most districts creating traffic jams as hundreds of farmers squatted on roads. In Nashik, former legislator Shankarrao Gadakh and over 120 farmers were detained for stopping traffic on the Nashik-Aurangabad state highway this afternoon, while the busy Mumbai-Ahmedabad national highway was blocked for short while near Dhule. The shutdown elicited full response in Chandrapur, Dhule, Latur, Bhandara, Hingoli, and Satara where farmers made bonfire of onion stocks, besides Yavatmal where scores of farmers resorted to mass-tonsure to protest against the government.
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According to some estimates, fresh stocks of milk, fruits and vegetables worth hundreds of crores of rupees have been disrupted on account of the five-day farmers strike’ in the state. Urban centres like Mumbai, Pune, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Aurangabad, Nagpur and other semi-urban centres were out of purview of the shutdown but would be impacted in terms of shortages of daily essentials and spiralling prices. The shutdown called by Kisan Kranti – an umbrella organisation of various farmers groups in the state – was part of intensifying the farmland “strike” from June 1. On Tuesday the plan was to lockdown all government offices followed by gherao of legislators and ministers’ offices on Wednesday.