Farmers Give Government 48 Hours To Meet Demands

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Nashik: Around 4,000 villagers stopped traffic at Karmala in Solapur on Thursday after a 45-year-old farmer committed suicide amid the ongoing agitation to demand a crop loan waiver from the government.

The farmer had written in his suicide note that he should not be cremated till Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis visits his village. Now, agitated farmers in Maharashtra have given a 48-hour ultimatum to the government to hold talks with them. Or else, they will escalate the week-old agitation, and bring the state machinery to a grinding halt.
What exactly is the farmers’ agitation about? Where did it begin and why? What are their main demands? On April 3 this year, a few farmers from Puntambe in Ahmednagar sat together to search answers to the agricultural crisis that plagues them every year.

Agitated and frustrated due to low minimum support price and government’s ignorance towards their plight, they decided that the only way out was to make their voices heard and go on a strike.

And so, they claim, that for the first time in the history of the state, the farmers decided to go on a strike. The Puntambe gram sabha passed a resolution on April 3. Word soon spread and 2,500 gram panchayats came out in support of the protest.

Their main demands were the implementation of the Swaminathan Committee Report, particularly the Minimum Support Price clause. They demanded that farmers should be given 50% additional money than the cost of production so that farming becomes viable, a complete loan waiver and pension for farmers above 60 years of age.

Towards the end of May, BJP’s ally in the state, Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana declared ‘Atmaklesh yatra’. This, party leader Raju Shetti said, was his repentance for being a part of the insensitive government.

Soon after the Atmaklesh yatra, farmers’ protests began on June 1. The state government, in a gesture of goodwill, called some farmers’ leaders for talks in Mumbai.  After the talks, a farmers’ leader from Puntambe named Jayaji Suryawanshi unilaterally declared that the strike was called off.

This sent a wave of rage among farmers. They alleged that the government had slyly broken the unity of the protestors, instead of addressing their concerns.This led to further agitations. They were further aggravated by the government’s statements that it was a conspiracy by opposition parties against the BJP government. NCP, Congress and even allies like Shiv Sena, didn’t leave the opportunity of attack the government from the shoulders of the farmers for its failure to end the protest.

Finally, the CM announced the largest loan waiver in the history of Maharashtra. But, by then, it was too late. The farmers were too bitter and reluctant to trust the government. This also showed the lack of mass leaders in the government that BJP could engage with.

Now, despite the announcement, the farmers continue their protest. They haven’t declined political support, but are also wary of other politicians hijacking the cause.The core committee of farmers’ leaders has given a two-day ultimatum to the government to hold talks with them or they will hold a state-wide dharna on June 12. The farmers have also planned a rail roko andolan on June 13. The protests will continue till Swaminathan Commission Report is implemented, farmers have said.