In Pune, two major dairies — Chitale and Gokul — did not collect milk. Dairy operators said that milk collection had almost stopped in western Maharashtra, which supplies milk to Pune and other major cities.
Milk supplies dropped to zero in major cities, including Pune, on Wednesday as the the ‘Dudh Bandh’ agitation call given by farmer body Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS), demanding higher prices for milk in Maharashtra, reached the third day.
Earlier in the day, SSS leader Raju Shetti reached Dahanu Railway station in a bid to stop the Ahmedabad-Mumbai passenger train only to discover that the train was not carrying any milk tankers.
Shetti has called for a ‘Chakka Jam’ throughout the state on July 19 and said farmers would come out with their cattle onto the street in protest against the government’s refusal to pay heed to their demands. Even as the ongoing ‘milk blockage’ in Maharashtra continued in the state, special arrangements were being made for the supply of milk to Mumbai. According to a Western Railways statement, to mitigate the problems faced by the citizens, milk tankers will be attached to the Ahmedabad-Mumbai Central passenger train.
The Gujarat Dairy Development Corporation has asked the Western Railways to make provisions for transportation of additional supply of milk through trains.
The Rail Milk Tanker will contain around 44,000 litres of milk in 12 tankers that were to be attached from Anand district in Gujarat to Mumbai Central. However, the tankers were not carried on the train.
Terming it a victory for farmers, Shetti said the company did not send the tankers after realising that they would be stopped by him and his organisation people.
The SSS leader then reached the Vasundhara Milk Dairy — a franchise of Amul at Boisar and sat outside the gates staging a dharna to prevent milk from reaching Mumbai. According to SSS spokesperson Yogesh Pande, barely 30% milk collection happened in the state on Wednesday and the situation is likely to worsen on Thursday as several small dairies had also stopped collecting milk.
“The organisation has appealed to farmers to participate in the Chakka Jam on Thursday to block major state highways,” Pande said, adding that so far there has been no response from the state government in spite of repeated appeals from the Sanghatana to hold talks.
“We are ready for talks and suggest the formula for giving the Rs 5 per litre subsidy into farmer accounts but the government’s adamant approach seems to be more focussed on ensuring that Raju Shetti does not get all the credit and therefore the deadlock,” he said.
From Thursday, the state is likely to feel the pinch as people will scramble to hoard milk, he said, adding that the government seems to be more interested in deploying a heavy police force to ply milk tankers across the state than talking to farmers.
The anger in farmers is simmering and may result in violence, he said, adding that on Tuesday night 5 buses were vandalised by agitators and milk tankers were also stopped by them. In Pune, two major dairies — Chitale and Gokul — did not collect milk.
Dairy operators said that milk collection had almost stopped in western Maharashtra which supplies milk to Pune and other major cities.
According to Vishnu Hingne, chairman, Pune District Cooperative Milk Producers Association, majority of farmers had brought milk and collections improved to 80%. Distribution will continue, he said.
Dairies such as Gokul sell around 7.5 lakh litres of milk in Mumbai. Mahananda has a storage capacity of around 10 lakh litres in Mumbai and stocks of around 6 lakh litres. It sells nearly 2 lakh litres in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, police have detained Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana workers in Pune. The Sanghatana activists have warned that the situation could get chaotic if the government does not come forward for talks.