Mumbai: Supporting the farmers agitation, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) President, Sharad Pawar asked them to continue the stir till their demands were met. Farmers in the country are on a 10-day strike since June 1 demanding remunerative prices for their produce and waiver of farm loans. Pawar reminded the government of the assurances they had given the farmers and not fulfilled, which has forced them to take this drastic step.
“Farmers have been forced to take to the streets to protest. Four years ago, farmers were promised support price of their crops which was 50 per cent higher than the cost of production. This is not a political agitation but a struggle of farmers. Even though I am the president of a political party, I support the agitation as a farmer,” Pawar said.
Pawar, meanwhile, appealed to the cultivators not to throw their produce like milk on roads. Instead, they can give their produce to poor people,” he suggested. Till now, the prices of vegetables and fruits have not shot up, barring a few exceptions like tomato and cauliflower whose costs have doubled to Rs 40 per kg each. According to the wholesale market traders, the city has not yet witnessed any shortage in supply of stock. Now with the new deadline issued by farmers to not supply vegetables and milk to the cities, the consumers will face shortages and prices too are expected to rise.
Confirming a regular supply of veggies, Shankar Pingale, former director of the APMC Vashi Market, said, “The strike has not affected the supply and neither were there any shortages so far. There has been a regular inflow of about 597 trucks and 353 outgoing trucks till Monday morning. The farmers have a lot of produce, so they are sending it to the cities.”
There has been a marginal rise of about Rs 8 to Rs 10 in the prices of other vegetables like onions, potatoes, ladies finger, etc. The wholesale prices of onions and tomatoes range between Rs 14 to 16 per kg. Prashant Yadav, a vegetable vendor from Goregaon, said, “We have already started facing some shortage since Friday. The prices of vegetables like tomato, cauliflower and onion have doubled. Prices will certainly increase if the strike continues. We have already warned our customers to stock up in this crisis.”
Consumers are in favour of the farmers. Shrikant Darekar (58), a retired bank employee said the government is to be blamed for their plight. “The government should accept their demands and ensure the farmers get a good price for their produce. Farmers should be allowed to sell their produce directly to the consumers and the government should do away with the middlemen and agents, who are the culprits.”
While the prices of certain fruits like oranges and apples have remained unaffected across the markets of Malad, Goregaon, Colaba and CST, the prices of papaya, watermelon and pineapple have doubled due to seasonal hike after Ramzan. The milk vendors have been facing slight shortage in the supply but they are covering it up by procuring milk from neighbouring states like Rajasthan and MP. The milk prices have been stable throughout the city with Rs. 50 per litre. If the farmers do not allow the supply of milk to the cities, then the stock of milk from other states too is expected to get hit.
During this farmers’ strike, the Bharatiya Janta Party leaders and few ministers have blamed the agitators for holding the consumers and government to ransom. They have now alleged the agitation is a political vendetta against the government, not once addressing the problems faced by the farmers and the failure of the government to fulfil their assurances.
With leaders like Pawar extending their support to the agitation Dr Ajit Nawale, state secretary of All India Kisan Sabha, said: “There has been no interference of political parties, these are allegations only. The sole motive of different methods used in this agitation is to put pressure on the government so that they fulfil our demands. We will continue with this strike and have given the government time till June 7.”
However, not all farmers’ sanghatanas have joined this stir, Shetkari Sanghatana has stayed away and has in fact been critical of this agitation. “The government can’t afford to accept their demands. They don’t have the money or infrastructure in place. The loan waiver has been extremely tedious and time-consuming for the farmer as well. Farmers should be given open market and freedom without any government interference,” said Anil Ghanwat, president of Shetkari Sanghatana.