Milk farmers in Maharashtra are on an indefinite strike. Since Monday (July 16), they have been stopping tankers carrying milk from moving towards Mumbai and Pune, and emptying their contents as a way of raising their demands. Their main demand is a subsidy of Rs 5 per litre to compensate for crashing prices.
“The procurement rates of cow milk have plummeted to Rs 17-18 against Rs 24-27 nine months ago. The farmer spends Rs 20-25 to produce one litre of milk for which he is getting Rs 17-18. That is why we had announced the strike by cutting milk supply to Mumbai and other cities in the state from July 16,” said Raju Shetty, chairperson of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, which has called the strike. Private and cooperative dairies have also supported the strike.
Police have offered protection to milk tankers heading to the cities but supply has been severely affected and milk could soon run out.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), which jumped in the fray in support of the protest, claimed that it used to offer Rs 28 to farmers for one litre milk. The Congress too has supported the agitation.
“We have urged farmers to not turn violent. We want to block milk supplies of urban areas and will continue to do so until our demands are met,” said the MP.
Shetti will be in Palghar on Tuesday to crimp milk supplies from Gujarat to Mumbai.
State’s dairy development commissioner Rajiv Jadhav said agitated farmers tried to block milk supplies of Mumbai and other cities but failed.
In Nagpur, both houses of the state legislature were stormy after the Opposition parties hit out at the government over the strike. While moving adjournment motion in the lower house, leader of opposition in the state Assembly Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil accused the government of not honouring its word to milk farmers after a joint meeting with the CM.
Meanwhile, All India Kisan Sabha extended support to the protest. It condemned the restraining orders issued by the law enforcement agencies.
“The legitimate demands of the struggle are implementation of remunerative price for milk at the declared minimum support price (MSP) of Rs 27 per litre instead of Rs 17 per litre now. Failing this the state government should pay the difference directly to the milk producers under the ‘Bhavantar’ scheme,” AIKS leader Dr Ashok Dhawale said.
He criticised the government for its actions against activists involved in this struggle, instead of acceding to the legitimate demands of the milk farmers.
He further added that the police have time and again sent notices to AIKS activists and demanded that the state government must immediately concede and implement the demands of the milk farmers who are suffering severe losses for the last several months.
Meanwhile, the farmers’ issue has led to heated discussion in both the Houses of the state legislature.