Mumbai city and suburbs might face tremendous milk scarcity from July 16 as Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) chief and Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetti, who is the leader of the movement for the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for milk to be raised, has threatened the state government to stop the supply of milk and milk products to Mumbai if the demand for depositing grant of Rs 5 per litre directly to the bank accounts of dairy farmers is not fulfilled. Milk coming from two routes – Nashik and Gujarat – can be blocked.
After state Animal Husbandry and Milk Development Minister Mahadev Jankar announced Rs 50 per kg grant for milk powder export, Rs 5 for per litre milk and also to table a proposal to reduce the GST on ghee and butter, Raju Shetti clarified that the proposed agitation won’t be cancelled as the state government has failed to keep promise.
Raju Shetti told Afternoon Voice, “BJP and Modi government is leading an anti-farmer regime. A national agitation is required to oust this government. I have given an ultimatum to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis to credit the amount in the accounts of the dairy farmers before July 16; if they fail to do so, milk supply will be halted”.
When asked how long this agitation would continue, he said, “Can’t say any timeline at this moment but I am sure we will put pressure on the government to respect the sentiments of the dairy farmers and do justice to them.”
“I wrote over a dozen letters to Fadnavis and Modi in the last three years, explaining the crisis in the farm sector and the plight of the farmers and requested them to take some urgent steps. However, nothing happened so far! In their manifesto, they had promised to double farmers’ income but ended up doubling their debt,” Shetti further added.
Although the government had passed an ordinance indicating the dairy farmers who sell milk at Rs 17 can now sell it at Rs 27, the delay in implementing the same has resulted in farmers’ agitation. Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana also had taken out a morcha to Sugar Comm-issioner’s Office at Pune last month and demanded proper rates for cow milk and pending amount of fair remunerative price (FRP) for sugarcane. This time they have warned the Fadnavis government to disrupt milk supply also from Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Solapur, Ahmednagar and also from adjacent states like Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh by blocking the highways.
All India Kisan Sabha National President Ashok Dhawale expressed, “Raju Shetti has the right demand as many other organisations are fighting for this issue since last 2-3 months. We also agitated in many districts of Maharashtra. The dairy farmers are incurring losses so we are supporting this agitation.”
“The incumbent government is insensitive and worst for the farm sector and they have not kept any of their promises so far. They are neither following the recommendation of the Swaminathan Commission nor providing MSP for milk. The Centre is busy making favourable policies only for a chunk of corporates,” he added.
Road blockades in several parts of the state could be an extra mess for the state government to manage. Last month, farmers in several states like Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra staged protests demanding better prices for their products. They dumped their milk cans on a highway near Nashik to gush out their frustration. Criticising Shetti’s threat, Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said that ‘Mumbai is not Pakistan’ and challenges SSS to stop milk supply in and around the city.
BJP spokesperson Prof. Suhas Pharande stated, “The central government is supporting the farmers and we are working for their welfare. They must get MSP for their produce but we don’t support agitations where agitators will spread milk on the road or block roadways. They should discuss with the government to solve their problems. Blackmailing to disrupt the supply of milk and milk products is not the right way.”
Shetti has also pointed the finger to the government asking why the dairy farmers in Maharashtra can’t be offered subsidy if Karnataka can afford to give the same.
Ajit Abhyankar, Maharashtra state secretariat member of CPI (M) said, “Raju Shetti has made a right demand. If dairy farmers are not being able to bear the expenses or incurring losses, it is a question of their lives and livelihood. The government doesn’t have the moral right to reject this demand. This government is the enemy of farmers. They have to face consequences for injustice meted against farmers.”
Raju Shetti is the Lok Sabha MP from Hatkanangle in Maharashtra and a prominent farmers’ leader in the state. His first election to the Assembly from Shirol in 2004 was fought through the campaign of “One Note, One Vote” by supporters in the sugar belt of Kolhapur, Sangli, and Satara in western Maharashtra.
He is the one who scrapped Modi government’s crop insurance and soil health card schemes last year and called it just a trick to divert farmers’ attention from the Centre’s failure to pay Minimum Support Prices as promised before 2014 general elections.
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