NASHIK: The first meeting of the new steering committee, comprising representatives of various farmers' groups, today resolved to amplify their protests across Maharashtra if their demands, including a complete loan waiver, are not accepted by the state government by June 11.
A number of farmer leaders, including Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna (SSS) president and MP Raju Shetti, Raghunath Patil, MLA Bachhu Kadu, Maharashtra Kisan Sabha (MKS) members Ajit Navle and Raju Desale, participated in the meeting held here in the afternoon.
Shetti, whose SSS is an ally of the BJP-led NDA government in Maharashtra and who led a "atmaklesh yatra" (repentance march) of farmers last month, has stressed the need to take farmers' struggle to the national level.
He sought support of all opposition parties for the implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report. Shetti alleged that only traders and middlemen profited from the "flawed" Tur purchase policy of the state government.
Shetti, who represents the Hatkanangle Lok Sabha seat in Kolhapur district, said he would be visiting Madhya Pradesh, where the ongoing agitation by farmers has taken a violent turn, with the death of five farmers in alleged police firing.
Farmers in Maharashtra launched an unprecedented stir on June 1 which has affected the supply of milk and vegetables in major urban centres including Mumbai.
While refraining from selling their agricultural produce in many parts of the state, the cultivators took to the streets to disrupt the movement of vehicles carrying farm produce to cities such as Mumbai, Pune, Nashik.
Among prominent demands raised by farmers are a complete loan waiver, a guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP) for their produce, and implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report.
Earlier, a rift developed among agitators as a group of farmers decided to call off the protest after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a partial loan waiver for small and marginal farmers on June 3. The measure is to come into effect by October 31.
However, protests continued as another section of farmers stuck to its demand for a blanket loan waiver. At the meeting, Navle said farmers will start holding "thiyya andolan" (sit-in protest) outside tehsil offices and district collectorates across the state from June 12. "If our demands are not met by June 11, farmers will resort to 'thiyya andolan' June 12 onwards. Farmers will start holding protests like rasta roko, rail roko across the state on June 13 onwards," he said.
Farmers from Nashik district, which has emerged as the new epicentre of protests after Puntamba in Ahmednagar district, are demanding scrapping of the proposed 701-km Mumbai-Nagpur "Samruddhi" expressway project. Meanwhile, agricultural produce marketing committees (APMCs) in Nashik district have started receiving supply of vegetables and fruits from farmers, after days of shortage. Supply of milk has also become normal now.
Addressing the meeting, Bacchu Kadu said farmers will not let ministers in Maharashtra address meetings in the state during the second stage of agitation if their demands are not met. "We will take our struggle to the national level," he said, adding that 70 leaders of various farmers' organisations participated in today's meeting of the steering committee.
Meanwhile, soaring prices of vegetables and fruits in Mumbai and some other cities are slowly getting plateaued with increased inflow of agricultural produce.
Substantial inflow of vegetables and fruits in Pune, Navi Mumbai and Vashi agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) has somewhat stabilised their prices in the last two days, according to official sources.
Yesterday, security was stepped up outside houses of legislators and MPs of the ruling BJP after agitating farmers put a lock outside the house of R T Deshmukh, the party MLA from Majalgaon in Beed district.