An agitation, organised jointly by the Opposition BJP, Rayat Kranti, RSP and the Republican Party (Athawale Group) demanding granting a subsidy of Rs 10 per litre for milk and Rs 50 per Kg subsidy for milk powder, passed off peacefully in many parts of Maharashtra on Saturday.
The agitators, who began their stir by laying wreaths at the statues of Lokmanya Tilak and Sahitya Ratna Anna Bhau Sathe, blocked the roads and distributed milk to the passers-by. They raised slogans against the Shiv Sena-led MVA government in the state
Though the BJP claimed that its agitation was a huge success, the agitation was largely confined to western Maharashtra. The agitation did not have any impact on the milk supply to the
consumers across the state, as there were no reports of any milk shortage from any part of the State.
Former chief minister and current leader of the Opposition Devendra Fadnavis of the BJP warned the Shiv Sena-led MVA government that if it did not accept the milk producers’ demands, his party would intensity the agitation in the coming days.
Fadnavis also slammed Swambhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) leader Raju Shetti for his lack of concern for the milk-producing farmers. “He (Shetti) is more of a farmers; leader who undertakes the agitation for the state government. All he is doing is to save the state government. The hike in milk prices is essential because the income earned by the farmers is not sufficient enough to purchase fodder cows and buffalows,” the senior BJP leader said.
While BJP state president MLA Chandrakant Dada Patil took part in the agitation in Maval taluka in Pune district of western Maharashtra, RSP chief Mahadev Jankar and Rayat Kranti chief Sadabhau Khot participated in the agitation by pouring milk on the idol of the presiding deity in Vithobha temple at Pandharpur in Solapur district, also in western Maharashtra.
The BJP-led “Mahayuti” (grand alliance) had earlier organised a similar agitation on July 20 to press milk producers’ various demands.
“The Dairy Development Minister had also called a meeting to discuss the demands of milk producers. However, as no decision was taken in this regard by accepting the demands of milk producers in the state cabinet meeting, we had no alternative but to resort to a second round of agitation,” Chandrakant Dada Patil said.
Patil said that the farmers’ crisis was getting severe day by day. “The state government has not extended any relief to farmers to tide over the crisis. Some of the problems that the farmers are facing are denial of loans by banks, double sowing due to fake soybean seeds, shortage of urea fertilizer and black marketing of urea fertilizer, damage to crops of farmers in Konkan region due to recent cyclone and damage to crops due to heavy rains in many places”
Alluding to the difficulties faced by the mill producers in the state, Patil said: “Owing to the fall in milk prices in these series of crises, the plight of milk producing farmers has become pitiable. Under the circumstances, we (Mahayuti) have demanded a subsidy of Rs 10 per litre for milk and a subsidy of Rs. 50 per kg for milk powder. We have also demanded that the hike in the electricity supplied to farmers be withdrawn”.
It may be recalled that more than a week ago, a controversy had broken out between the BJP and SSS leader Raju Shetti over the latter’s claim that the Centre was not increasing the procurement prices of milk product prices because of its decision to import milk powder.
On his part, BJP’s State Kisan Morcha president and former State Agriculture minister Anil Bonde had denied that the Government had not imported 10,000 tonnes of milk powder as was being alleged by Shetti.
Reacting to the statements by Shetti who had among other things said that the milk business in the state had been affected “because of the policies of the central government”, Bonde had said that Shetti was was spreading “false information” that the central government has imported milk powder to cover up the failure of the Maha Vikas Aghaadi government to give fair procurement prices to milk producers.
Bonde had said that it was mandatory under the GATT agreement to import 10,000 metric tonnes of milk powder as per the GATT agreement, no importer has been issued with expression of interest and no import license has been issued to anyone.
“Therefore, the claim that milk powder was imported is completely baseless and false. Similarly, no demand has been made by the importer for import of mustard, cotton seed and sunflower oil and no license has been issued for their import to anyone,” Bonde had said.