Barring Vashi, almost all market committee in Maharashtra wore a deserted look on Thursday, with farmers in the state keeping away and beginning an indefinite strike from Wednesday midnight. Agitating farmers from over 20 districts have gone on a strike to press for a farm debt waiver and higher prices for farm produce after talks with Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis fell through. Vehicles carrying vegetables, fruits, milk, poultry products and meat to cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Aurangabad bore the brunt of farmers’ ire.
The strike was marred by stray incidents of violence, stone pelting and damage to the vehicles carrying fruits, vegetables and milk. Farmers in some parts of the state spilt milk from tankers, dumped fruits and vegetables on roads. In Nashik, the police had to resort to a lathi charge to bring the situation under control after trucks full of pomegranates and onions headed to different cities in the state were unloaded on the street.
The districts which witnessed farmers’ protests include Ahmednagar, Nashik, Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur, Nanded and Jalgaon. These districts are the main suppliers of vegetables, fruits, milk, poultry products, and meat to western Maharashtra, Mumbai, Marathwada and north Maharashtra.
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Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis accused the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party of causing unrest and violence in the state under the garb of the strike. This is probably the first time farmers have resorted to a strike in the state. Distressed over falling prices of agricultural produce and other issues, the farmers have demanded a loan waiver. With the farmers going on strike, cities like Mumbai and Pune are likely to face a shortage of vegetables, milk and fruits. On Tuesday night, representatives of the Kisan Kranti Jan Andolan, a state-level coordination committee of various farmers’ outfits met the chief minister at his official residence in Mumbai to discuss the issue, but the talks remained inconclusive, as farmers refused to postpone their agitation. The outfit claims support from over 42 farmer organisations in the state and says that while the strike has been very successful and as more farmers join the strike call, the agitation will intensify.
“The response to the bandh has been unexpected. It has been 85-90% successful Ahmednagar,Nashik, Satara and adjoining districts and 75% successful in other parts of the state,” Dhananjay Jadhav, a core committee member of the Kisan Kranti Jan Andolan, told FE.
He said that the core committee members had planned for seven days and after a meeting to be held on Thursday night, the line of future action will be drawn by the farmers.
However, the agriculture produce marketing committee (APMC) market yard in Navi Mumbai’s Vashi did not witness any immediate impact of the strike. According to Sanjay Pansare, president of the Fruits and Vegetables Traders Association in Vashi, the effects of the strike will be seen from Friday when the farmers stop bringing their produce to the market. On Thursday, some 415 trucks of vegetables, 350 trucks of fruits and 150 trucks of onion and potato arrived in the market. This is likely to stop from Friday and consumers will then start feeling the pinch, he said.