The agitation called by the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) to stop supply of milk, seeking a higher procurement price, received a good response in western Maharashtra, but supply to cities like Mumbai and Pune remained unaffected on Monday.
SSS leader Raju Shetti, who has been demanding that the government give dairy farmers a subsidy of Rs. 5 per litre, kick-started the agitation at Pandharpur in Solapur district after performing a ‘milk ritual’ to the deity Vithoba.
Later speaking in Pune, Mr. Shetti said, “We have never shut the door on discussions. The Kerala and Karnataka governments have offered subsidies to their milk farmers. Why can’t the Maharashtra government do the same?” The MP from Hatkanangle alleged that the State is in cahoots with the milk mafia.
Dairy Development Minister Mahadev Jankar announced in the Assembly that the government will hike the milk procurement price by Rs. 3 per litre.
Mr. Shetti, however, said the agitation will continue until the government increases the per litre milk procurement price by Rs. 5. “Even if Mr. Jankar claims to have accepted the proposal of increasing the per litre price to Rs. 27, the farmers haven’t received anything in their accounts.”
He further said the SSS will launch a satyagraha to ensure no milk is brought in from Gujarat and Karnataka. “The government has been resorting to underhand tactics to disrupt our protest by taking our activists into police custody, and planning to procure milk from other States. But we won’t let this happen.”
Rural areas hit
The agitation was a success in Sangli and Kolhapur districts. The Kolhapur District Milk Cooperative, known as Gokul, remained shut in the morning. But as the day progressed, 12 Gokul tankers headed towards Mumbai under police escort.
There were disturbances in Pune, with five milk vans being damaged by SSS activists. However, supply to Pune and Pimpri-Chinchwad remained largely unaffected.
“The distribution was smooth owing to the police protection. If the agitation intensifies on Tuesday, our operations may be affected,” Kedar Chitale, partner, Chitale Bandhu Mithaiwale, said.
Nearly 100 milk producers, dairy owners, and small farmers at Miraj in Sangli backed Mr. Shetti’s agitation.
In Ahmednagar district, farmers emptied milk tankers. Major dairies like Prabhat, Rajhans, and S.R. Thorat have stopped milk supply since Sunday evening.
Patrolling was increased along the Mumbai-Bengaluru highway with police teams shielding Gokul tankers heading to Mumbai. Later in the day, 15 milk tankers from Nashik, too, headed towards Mumbai under police escort.
The tremors of the agitation were felt in the Marathwada and Konkan regions and parts of north Maharashtra as well. Supply in Solapur district was disrupted. At Sangola, there were reports of SSS activists throwing milk packets on the roads, while a tanker was waylaid in Madha tehsil.
In Budhana district SSS workers damaged a van belonging to the Jalgaon district milk cooperative, which sells cow milk under Vikas brand. They further prevented milk vans and tankers from moving out of Malkapur.
At Vaijapur in Aurangabad district, agitators waylaid a tempo belonging to the Navale milk cooperative and threw milk bags on the roads of Hadas Pimpalgaon village. Demonstrators emptied a tanker at Ladsawangi.
Farmers staged a protest in front of the Collector’s office in Sindhudurg district.
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