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Protestors halt milk tankers, CM says govt open for talks

Milk tankers were stopped on Monday in several districts of the state by protesters demanding hike in procurement price, even as Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis disapproved of the agitation.

The agitators stopped milk tankers in various places and emptied them on roads as a mark of protest.

Impact of the protest was also felt on the Amul dairy’s collection centres at Vasai and Virar towns in the neighbouring Palghar district as the cooperative giant decided not to collect milk from farmers.

Amul is the single largest supplier of milk to Mumbai.

If Amul’s milk supply gets affected, the impact will be felt by consumers, a senior state government official said.

As many as 55 lakh milk pouches are sold in Mumbai every day, with the Gujarat-based firm having the highest market share of 30 per cent followed by Kolhapur-based Gokul, a dairy development department official had earlier said.

Farmers’ organisations are demanding a hike of Rs 5 per litre in milk procurement price and have decided to suspend the supply to Mumbai and Pune from Monday.

Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana chief Raju Shetti, who is spearheading the protest, said they were compelled to take up the agitation as the state government did not pay heed to their demands.

“We are not happy to waste milk but the government is protecting dairies and not considering farmers’ woes,” he alleged.

“We have decided to protest out of compulsion as other ways to convince the government failed,” Shetti said.

The agitation will intensify further if the state government fails to fulfil the demands, the Lok Sabha member from Kolhapur warned.

Members of various farmers’ organisations decided to escalate their protest after they noticed that despite their opposition, several dairies were planning to supply milk to major cities like Mumbai and Pune.

The farmers’ organisations stopped milk tankers in various districts of western Maharashtra and emptied the vehicles on roads.

Farmers have demanded a hike in milk purchase price by Rs 5 per litre, to which the state government as well as dairies have objected.

The districts of Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara and Pune in western Maharashtra — the epicentre of the agitation — are the major milk producers and suppliers to Mumbai and other major cities.

Besides, milk is also produced on a large scale in Ahmednagar, Nashik, Jalgaon, Nanded and Parbhani districts.

Meanwhile, Fadnavis disapproved of the agitation launched by milk suppliers and said the government was open for talks on any issue.

Assuring that milk supply would not be affected, he said the government has not adopted an “egoistic view” on any issue.

“Our doors are always open for discussion… The government has not adopted an egoistic view on any issue. But the way the current protest is going on, is not right,” the chief minister said.

Fadnavis also did not favour the idea of transferring subsidy to the milk producers directly.

“Only 40 per cent of the milk producers are registered with the body representing them. The remaining 60 per cent are not registered. So, direct transfer (of subsidy amount) may lead to a kind of scam,” he said.

Shetti had on Sunday said that the procurement price of milk should be immediately hiked by Rs 5.

“Farmers sell milk to dairies at Rs 17 per litre. After processing it, the dairies package it in pouches and sell it at a minimum rate of Rs 42 per litre. The difference in earnings has not been passed on to the farmers,” he said.

Ajit Nawale of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, which works for farmers’ rights, had said the agitation will intensify further if the state government failed to procure milk at higher prices or did not give special subsidy to milk farmers.

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