Stray incidents of violence marred the start of an unprecedented ‘indefinite strike’ by over half a million farmers in Maharashtra in support of various demands, including the long-pending loan waiver package, here on Thursday.
If the strike continues beyond a couple of days, major cities like Mumbai, Thane, Navi Mumbai, Pune, Nashik, Nagpur and others may experience severe shortages of milk, fresh fruits, vegetables, foodgrains and other items of daily requirements, said Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader and MP Raju Shetti.
Striking farmers, who had warned they would not indulge in any farming activity, including sowing for the upcoming kharif season, resorted to the agitation after talks with the Maharashtra government failed on Tuesday.
Stray incidents of violence were reported from some parts including Nashik, Satara, Kolhapur and Pune where aggressive farmers emptied at least two tankers with several tonnes of fresh milk being transported to the cities, destroyed stocks of fresh vegetables, tomatoes, onions, being taken to markets.
In another incident near Satara, the driver of a milk tanker was manhandled by some farmers and prevented from proceeding to his destination to transport the commodity, while stones were pelted at some vegetable and police vehicles near Nashik.
The strike has elicited “good response” from farmers all over the state, except from agriculturists in the coastal Konkan, who are not part of the agitation.
Movement of agricultural goods has been restricted since midnight.
Most APMC markets wore a desolate look as farmers, traders, head-loaders, transporters and other officials virtually kept off.
A farmer leader Jayaji Suryawanshi, who is also a member of the state-level umbrella organisation Kisan Kranti Morcha that is spearheading the strike, was allegedly roughed up by some traders near Aurangabad here this morning when he was on a market round to drum up support for the strike.
On the outskirts of Nashik and Ahmednagar, small groups of farmers set up ‘check-posts’ to verify if goods carriers were transporting fruits, vegetables, milk, etc. before permitting passage.
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.
Mumbai, the country’s biggest city with a population of around 17 million, gets around 160 tonnes of vegetables from only Nashik daily, besides other parts of Maharashtra, which started declining from early today, leading to a 20-30 per cent hike in retail prices.