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Maharashtra farmers set 12 June deadline for Fadnavis govt on loan waiver

LiveMint logoLiveMint 08-06-2017 Abhiram Ghadyalpatil

Mumbai: Farm organizations, elected representatives and farm activists in Maharashtra said on Thursday they will intensify their stir if the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government fails to accept their demands, including a waiver of farm loans, by 12 June.

A blanket farm loan waiver for all bank account-holding farmers—more than 10 million—in Maharashtra is one of the seven demands made by the 21-member steering committee of protesters.

The committee met in North Maharashtra’s Nashik town to decide the future course of action and said later that the protest would be intensified in a step-by-step manner starting from Monday. Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana president and lawmaker Raju Shetty said farmers in Maharashtra will lead demonstrations and protests at all tehsil offices on Monday and follow it up with a train blockade on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC)-operated markets across the state returned to near total normalcy on Thursday as a farmers’ strike launched on June 1 ended in most places, including the districts of Nashik, Ahmednagar and Kolhapur where the strike call evoked near total response for seven days.

Of the total 307 APMC markets across the state, more than 300 opened on Wednesday and they saw 90% of their average daily arrivals of farm produce, according to Maharashtra’s agriculture marketing department. The strike had a limited impact on Wednesday when 301 markets remained open and, according to an agriculture marketing official who requested anonymity, “not a single APMC market was closed on account of the farmers’ strike.” Across the state, 302 APMC markets saw arrivals of more than 300,000 quintals of farm produce on Wednesday as compared to 214,000 quintals on Tuesday.

The steering committee comprises Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, Peasants and Workers Party (PWP), and independent legislator Bachchu Kadu. On Thursday, some farmers who attended the steering committee meeting objected to the presence of Congress legislator Bhai Jagtap arguing that the committee should stay away from established political parties who they said had failed to take up farmers’ issues when they ruled the state.

Ajit Nawle of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha said the committee would sit again on 13 June to decide the strategy if the government did not accept the demands by 12 June. “The government still has time to accept our demands and prevent this protest. The government must acknowledge that the farmers’ protest in Maharashtra has been able to trigger similar and more violent protests in Madhya Pradesh and even Punjab. We are against any violence but the government also must not use force against protesting farmers to crush the protest,” Navle said.

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