Mumbai, June 2 (IANS) A farmer injured in police caning succumbed to his injuries on the second day of the farmers’ strike as Maharashtra grappled with shortages of daily essentials amid rising prices on Friday.
Farmer Ashok More from Kopargaon in Ahmednagar, who was injured in police caning on Thursday, died on Friday, prompting opposition leader Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil to demand immediate action against the concerned police officials.
As the farmers’ agitation continued aggressively, the government appeared getting isolated with its ally Shiv Sena, the opposition Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, Aam Aadmi Party, social activist Anna Hazare, the powerful Warkari community and Maharashtra Trade Unions Joint Action Committee besides Leftists and NGOs throwing their weight behind the protest.
Over half a million farmers in the state are practically on the streets since Thursday midnight.
Their demands include: a complete waiver of farmer loans, free electricity, appropriate remunerative prices for their produce, grants for irrigation, pension for farmers who are 60 years old and above, and implementation of the M.S. Swaminathan Committee recommendations.
Continuing their aggressive stance across Maharashtra barring the coastal Konkan region, thousands of farmers resorted to different forms of protest to highlight their demands on Friday.
In a village in Aurangabad, farmers donated free milk to people facing shortages but warned that if the government did not budge the situation would worsen by the weekend.
The Kisan Kranti, an umbrella organisation spearheading the strike, said it has been invited for a fresh round of talks with the government in Mumbai on Friday night.
A spokesperson for the Kisan Kranti core committee told the media in Puntamba, an important market centre in Ahmednagar, that the farmers have decided to intensify their agitation unless the government takes immediate steps.
“On Monday, we shall organise a Maharashtra shutdown (bandh); on Tuesday, we shall lockdown all government offices and on June 7 we shall shut down offices of all legislators and ministers,” said the spokesperson.
“We have shown the strength of the farmers. We were being ignored till now, but not any more. In just two days, entire Maharashtra is experiencing massive shortages of essentials,” he said.
On Friday, Anna Hazare came out in support of farmers, but the Kisan Kranti cold-shouldered his proposal to mediate with the government on their behalf.
A prominent farmers leader, Raghunath Patil, asked the Kisan Kranti not to go for any more negotiations with the government.
“Enough negotiations and talks. Now is the time for decisions. The government must announce their decision on the farmers demands,” Patil said.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis appeared to be the main target of the farmers in most districts where they vented their ire on him in different ways.
In Pandharpur and Osmanabad, farmers kicked and trampled an effigy of Fadnavis, in Lasalgaon and Nashik they carried out his mock funeral.
In Satara, about a hundred farmers tonsured themselves and took out a “funeral procession” of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.
In Wardha, they poured milk on the Chief Minister’s portrait.
The bustling weekly farmers markets in Aurangabad, Ratnagir, Thane and other places were boycotted as farmers kept their products in farms instead of bringing them for sale.
Minister of State for Agriculture Sadabhau Khot admitted that barely 125 – or 10 per cent – of the around 1,200 trucks of farm goods have reached Mumbai. The situation was worse in some other cities and urban centres.
Joining Fadnavis in pointing an accusing finger at the Congress-NCP, Khot claimed that the people taking part in the strike were not farmers but anti-social elements.
In several districts, scores of tankers loaded with fresh milk were emptied on the streets, from the top of a flyover in Solapur and even on railway tracks at Daund station.
Roads were blocked in many districts, including in Hingoli where farmers staged road blocks with their farm products. Police cleared farmers squatting on roads and highways in Nashik, Ahmednagar, Osmanabad, Pune, Satara and Kolhapur.
This is published unedited from the IANS feed.