Farmers from 172 organizations have come together for the nationwide strike, under the banner of the Rashtriya Kisan Mazdoor Mahasangh (RKMM) and the Kisan Ekta Manch (KEM).
Farmers in at least seven States began a ten-day strike or ‘Gaon Bandh’ on Friday, dumping crates of vegetables and thousands of litres of milk on the roads to draw attention to the agrarian crisis and demand an assured minimum income, higher support prices and a complete loan waiver.
The impact of the strike was immediately felt in Punjab, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and parts of Uttar Pradesh and Chattisgarh, according to strike leaders.
“Some farmers are dumping their produce. Many are also selling them within the villages,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU). “Today is only the first day, so urban markets are still able to sell what was supplied earlier. Wait and see; by day after tomorrow, prices will shoot up in cities.”
Ramandeep Sangh Mann, a farmer leader associated with the KEM — an umbrella body of 62 farmer groups — said, “According to local reports, 40 percent of milk supply in Punjab is affected.”
Extending support to the farmers’ campaign, Punjab Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu visited Patto village in Fatehgarh Sahib and purchased milk and vegetables directly from a farmer.
“In Haryana, arrival of farm produce at urban centres was down by 70 to 80 percent ,” BKU leader Rakesh Bainsin informed the press.
Mr. Bains said implementing the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendation on Minimum Support Price (MSP) for crops, complete farm loan waiver and fixation of minimum income for farmers are the key demands that the government should address immediately.
“We also want the government to fix MSP for milk and vegetables,” he added.
Although the agitation did not affect normal life in Rajasthan, supply of milk, vegetables and other farm produce was hit in Sriganganagar, Hanumangarh and Jhunjhunu districts.
“We will continue this for the next 10 days and the protest will intensify,” said Santveer Singh, a member of the core committee of RKMM in Rajasthan. He said protests were held in Bikaner, Sikar and Nagaur.
As the strike began, police in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh have kept a close vigil as the anniversary of the June 6 farmers’ agitation approaches. Six farmers were killed in police firing during protests last year.
In adjacent Neemuch, again there has been not shortage of vegetables and milk although the markets were shut there. Farmers also stayed away from the grain market in Neemuch.
Police detained three protesters in Saikheda in Nashik, the nerve centre of the farmers’ agitations earlier this year. At Khamkheda village in Deola Tehsil, tomato farmers threw their produce on the roads.
In Khed Shivapur, farmers condemned the apathy of the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government by spilling thousands of litres of milk along the Pune-Bengaluru highway.
However, business was largely unaffected in most of the major wholesale markets in Mumbai and Pune.
The strike had a strong impact on business at Nashik’s main Lasalgaon Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) — the country’s largest onion market, with sources stating that the price of onions was likely to rise sharply.