Pune: At the end of the third day of the milk collection blockade protest initiated by the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna (SSS) came to an end, the situation remained tense in the State as farmers and activists resorted to vehicle damage and milk spillage and milk collection numbers dropped significantly. The SSS has now announced a chakka jam protest in the state on Thursday.
The SSS began the milk blockade on Monday and its activists were successful in creating milk shortage across the state. Major milk supplying regions like Sangli, Kolhapur, Satara, Ahmednagar and others, saw milk tankers being stopped, damaged and in some cases, even burnt.
Milk from these tankers was spilled or distributed for free to villagers and the poor. The government attempted to carry out milk collection under deployment of SRPF and police protection. The collection of milk in the state has
fallen by 50 pc.
MP Raju Shetti, the man leading the SSS and the agitation, has been at the forefront personally to block milk tankers in the Maharashtra-Gujarat border region. He has been on a sit-in, just outside the collection centre of Amul milk in Maharashtra, at Dahanu, near Mumbai. “The State government has not approached us as of yet with any constructive demand. We will not let a drop of milk from other states come to the state to puncture the pressure that has been built,” said Yogesh Pande, spokesperson of the SSS.
“The State, instead of talking to us and trying to solve the problems of the farmers, has taken a repressive stand. They are hounding our activists and more than 3,000 of our activists have been detained, arrested or are underground,” Pande said, “The CM said that they will take back the cases against farmers but not against activists. He can do whatever he can but we will not stop.”
Talking about the future strategy, Pande said, “The distressed farmers have now taken over the protest and we as an organisation are taking a back seat now. We have announced the chakka jam, where thousands of farmers of the state will bring their cattle to the roads and block them,” Pande said, adding, “96 pc of our office holders have been arrested, but we know the farmers will continue the fight.”
“The Kisan Sabha has not been asked directly by the Swabhimani and we do not want to take over their agitation. But we have announced them our unconditional support and are with them,” said Ajit Nawale of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), adding, “The farmers in the state are tensed. Some dairies which had said they will not collect milk, are already collecting milk now. The issue has not been solved and the government is playing a cruel game with farmers.”
“The government knows that milk is a perishable and the farmer can’t see his own produce go to waste for too long. The government is handling the agitation harshly and just waiting for the farmers to break down,” Nawale said, adding, “It is just exploiting the helplessness of the farmers. The State has resorted to police action and repression in many places.”
The State government has declined the demand of the farmers for the Rs 5 direct subsidy and is insisting of paying the dairies instead, citing the lack of authentic data of dairy farmers. “That is not true. The government has all data of milk producing farmers as their dairy supervisors collect this data each month,” said Vishnu Hinge, Chairman of the Katraj Dairy, adding, “If there was no data, how would the government know what is the scale of collection of milk?”
When told that urban consumers and many commentators are commenting negatively about the milk spillage, Nawale said, “The farmer bears the production cost of milk at almost 30 to 35 rupees per litre of milk. For the last 8 months, he has been selling his milk at a loss of more than Rs 15. When the farmer was selling his produce at dirt cheap prices, no one displayed their sensitivity,” and added, “If it requires the spillage for the urban consumer to talk about the issue, then it is okay that the farmers are resorting to it.”