Over half a million farmers across Maharashtra on Wednesday said that they plan to launch an indefinite strike starting midnight after talks with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on various issues, including the long-pending demand of a loan waiver, collapsed. “With the farmers going on strike, major cities like Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur could face shortages of essentials fruits, vegetables, milk and food grains in the coming days,” said Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader and MP Raju Shetti.
“Farmers are committing suicides all over the state… The government is insensitive to their plight. We have no options but to launch the strike.. After a fortnight we will intensify it,” Shetti told IANS. Late on Tuesday, representatives of the Kisan Kranti Morcha (KMM) a state-level coordination committee of various farmers organisations, met Fadnavis, but failed to get any concrete commitments, he added.
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Shetti said the strike is “a loss of face for Prime Minister Narendra Modi” who had assured to resolve farmers issues during the 2014 election, and “a failure of the state BJP”. The government however said it is still hopeful of working out a last-minute solution.
“We are discussing all the issues with farmers’ leaders. We are sympathetic to their demands. I am certain we will hammer out an amicable solution and resolve the issues,” Minister of State for Agriculture Sadabhau Khot told media persons.
A group of around 200 farmers of Puntamba village in Ahmednagar district were the first to announce the strike from June 1, and many others followed suit.
The farmers’ demands include complete waiver of farm loans, free electricity, appropriate remunerative prices for their produce, grant for irrigation and higher price for milk and implementation of the M.S. Swaminathan Committee recommendations.
The Fadnavis government had been under severe fire from not only the opposition parties – Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party – but also its own allies – the Shiv Sena and the Shetti-led SSS.
In a massive show of strength on Tuesday, Shetti completed his long march from Pune to Mumbai and met Maharashtra Governor C.V. Rao to apprise him of the crises gripping farmlands.
“We have already held meetings with Governor Rao and Chief Minister Fadnavis on our long-pending issues and urged an immediate solution,” Shetti added.
He warned that with monsoon setting in, the sowing season would begin within the next fortnight, which would be affected if the government failed to fulfil the farmers’ demands.
“One cropping season may go which will hit agricultural supplies in the long run. We shall intensify the agitation by resorting to road blocks to stop trucks carrying agro-products from plying in the state,” Shetti said.
Meanwhile the state Congress reacted sharply to a statement by a BJP state spokesperson purportedly saying that strike “would make no difference to the government”.
Congress spokesperson Sachin Sawant said the ruling BJP has been continuously “abusing” the farmers and it signifies the party’s end is approaching.
“The BJP’s end is near in the state and the country. Very soon farmers all over India will also show they don’t need the BJP,” he said.