Pune: A year since the historic farmer’s strike that began from Puntambe in Nashik last year, farmers organisations and political outfits are trying to make the most from the offered occasion by organising protests and strikes to try and capitalise on the rising anti-government sentiment in farmers. While the organisations gear up for the ambitious attack, farmers seem confused and disheartened by the idea.
Last year on June 1, a steering committee of various farmers organisations from the State initiated the farmer’s strike in which farmers refused to harvest their produce or sell it to consumers. This strike had been tremendously successful in building pressure on the government and pushing it to announce a whopping 34 thousand crore crop loan waiver, which though later was only partially fulfilled. The steering committee members too steered away from each other over differences and accusations of betrayal.
The Kisan Kranti Andolan, led by Budhajirao Mulik, claims to be the originator of the farmers strike and has declared that it will repeat the strike this year too and without the involvement of other organisations. “We had worked for the strike last year, but the other organisations took over the strike and then messed with the objectives,” said Kamal Sawant of KKA, adding, “We will reclaim the strike and carry out negotiations with the government and make it successful unlike last time.”
On the other hand, the AIl India Kisan Sabha, which had taken the lead in the steering committee apart from stalwarts like Swabhimani MP Raju Shetti and independent MLA Bacchu Kadu, has refrained from the strike this year. The Kisan Sabha and the steering committee members have decided to organise protests at government offices across the State and to tie up aged cattle, which is unsaleable owing to the beef ban, at these offices.
“We are not going to participate in either of the protests,” said Yogesh Pande, spokesperson of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna led by Raju Shetti, adding, “We think that tools like the strike should be used carefully and now there is time for institutional solutions. We have drafted a farmer’s bill and will present it in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha. Whoever calls themselves farmer friendly should support it there
While the organisations are confident of farmers support, the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) body thinks that it won’t have much impact. “We do not think that farmers will participate to that large a scale in such a protest. The APMC receives 40 per cent of its produce from other states and so there will be little impact on availability of goods in the market,” said Dilip Khaire of the Pune APMC, adding, “Farmers usually tend to stay away. Only a few political outfits make it look like they have support.”
“We are not ready for a strike. We lost more than Rs 100 crore in the Junnar Taluka itself collectively. We can’t bear such losses this time,” said Deepak Bhise, a tomato farmer, adding, “We don’t even know which organisation is doing what. Last year, we participated but this year, we will refrain from participating in either the strike or the protest. It is beyond our capacity this year.”