Maharashtra farmers protest: Farmers from Puntamba village in Ahmednagar district had decided in a gram sabha meeting in April to stop the supply of produce to all cities from June 1. The strike that spread to the whole of Maharashtra spanning 11 days led to farmers shutting down wholesale markets and blocking highways in order to stop city based deliveries. They also disposed of milk and vegetables in the unrest. This forced the state government to form a Cabinet subcommittee to follow up on farmers’ demands of full waiver on farm loans and remunerative crop prices. The strike was finally aborted as the demands were accepted in principle. This, at a time when no drought-like condition was reported akin to the period between 2014 and 2016, and farmers were experiencing better than average rainfall and a bounteous harvest year, reported The Indian Express. The Maharashtra government had also provided compensations in the drought period by providing payments under MGNREGA schemes, and the Jalyukt Shivar Yojana programme dealing with conservation of water and soil in about 25000 drought-prone villages. While the protests were not founded on any loss due to a natural calamity but the main bone of contention were prices.
The government had asked the farmers to grow tur (pigeon pea) and raised its minimum support price to Rs 5050 from Rs 4625. However, the farmers, after increasing production, had to sell it for Rs 3000 per quintal, according to the Indian Express. They, consequently, suffered more loss from the extensive production in good rains than a drought-induced crop failure. In Uttar Pradesh, the recently elected Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had given a farm loan waiver and the farmers in Maharashtra sought too. Many farmer organisations agree that loan waivers are not sustainable and a more permanent solution is needed.
There doesn’t yet exist a government mechanism that works on the principle of price fluctuation, and not just provision of relief in any natural calamities, reported The Indian Express. However, the protest was a resounding success, as an erstwhile unorganised sector demanded a loan waiver and actually got it despite prominent bankers voicing the idea against waiving loans. Other factors that helped the farmers’ cause were images on social media of farmers who were unable to bear the expenses of harvesting, an increase in suicide rates among farmers and public discourse on farm loan waivers.