As the farmers’ strike in Maharashtra entered the second day, big cities like Mumbai and Pune are facing the threat of shortage of vegetables and milk. Farmers in Nashik, Solapur, Ahmednagar, Pune, Kolhapur and Wardha districts threw milk, foodgrains and vegetables on roads as a part of the protest. Vehicles carrying vegetables and fruits to Mumbai were stopped and ransacked.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis is meeting the farmers’ leaders here late tonight. Arrival of vegetable-carrying trucks at Agriculture Produce Market Committee (APMC) in neighbouring Navi Mumbai also fell drastically today.
However, supply of milk to the state capital was unaffected. But local traders said Mumbaikars may start feeling the pinch due to shortage of vegetables in a day or two, as vendors in many suburbs and in Navi Mumbai have already hiked rates.
Against 400-500 trucks of vegetables (around 7,000 tonnes) which arrive at Navi Mumbai APMC every day, only 182 trucks reached today. Many transporters avoided bringing veggies to the cities due to threat of violence. Minister of State for Agriculture Sadabhau Khot said supply of vegetables to Nashik and Pune was affected, but not that to Mumbai.
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If needed, government can invoke the Maintenance of Essential Commodities Act, he said.
The agitation continued today in many parts of the state with protesters dumping milk and vegetables on roads. The ‘strike’, touted to be first of its kind in the country, the call for which was given by Kisan Kranit Core Committee based in Puntambe village in Ahmednagar district, spread across the state, mainly through social media messages and appeals.
Farmers in the state faced three consecutive droughts before a good monsoon last year. At present they are staring at huge losses as tur daal prices have crashed due to a bumper crop this time.
Opposition Congress, NCP, as well as ruling coalition partner Shiv Sena have supported the agitation, which is mainly for the demand of loan waiver.
“Sena supports the agitation….that farmers resort to such extreme step is the failure of government,” Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray said.
In Solapur, farmers dumped milk from a flyover. Sandip Gidde, farmer leader from Puntambe, arrived with his associates in Mumbai late this evening to meet the chief minister.
“I received a call from the CM’s office, inviting me to come to Mumbai for talks. We do not want the strike to be stretched as it would affect the farmers themselves. But state government’s inaction has badly affected farmers. We want several reforms in agriculture,” Gidde told PTI.
In Nashik district, the biggest producer of onion in the country which is also a big supplier of vegetables and fruits to Mumbai, all 15 APMCs remained shut. There was shortage of milk and veggies in Nashik city.
Prohibitory orders in Yeola town of Nashik district, where 14 policemen were injured in stone-pelting during the agitation last evening, continued to be in force today.
Farmers also blocked parts of Mumbai-Agra highway in the district and tried to stop vehicles carrying vegetables to Pune and Gujarat, police said.
Meanwhile, as a debate on whether farmers should dump their produce on roads by way of protest raged on social media platforms and news channels, NCP supremo and former Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar said it should be avoided.
“Until the farmers get complete loan waiver and the government agrees to all their demands, they should ensure they stay united and continue the agitation… Instead of dumping vegetables and milk on road, farmers should distribute it to the poor in villages,” Pawar said.
Social activist Anna Hazare extended his support to the agitating farmers, and said he was willing to play mediator between the government and the farmers if they want.
He also appealed for conducting the agitation in a peaceful manner. Farmers are up in the arms against the government due to its anti-farmer policies, Hazare said.
Apart from loan waiver, farmers are demanding guaranteed minimum support prices (MSP). Farmers in Nashik district are also opposing acquisition of land for the Mumbai-Nagpur ‘Samruddhi Corridor’ (expressway).