Nearly 5-7 lakh farmers from different districts of Maharashtra including Ahmadnagar, Nashik, Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur, Nanded and Jalgaon have launched an agitation since 1st June 2017. They are demanding remunerative prices and guaranteed procurement for their produce as well as waiver for their debt.
The districts in which the farmers are agitating are the main suppliers of vegetables, fruits, milk, poultry products, and meat to western Maharashtra, Mumbai, Marathwada and North Maharashtra. Vehicles transporting vegetables, fruits, milk, poultry products and meat to cities like Mumbai, Pune, Nashik and Aurangabad were stopped by the farmers as part of their protest.
Dairy farmers have also joined the agitation. Agitating farmers spilt milk on the roads in protest in various places in Ahmednagar district which alone has around 3,500 milk collection centres and which together supply around 1 million litres of milk to other parts of Maharashtra, including Mumbai and Pune. In districts of Kolhapur, Sangli, Solapur, Nanded, Jalgaon and Nashik, vegetable growers and milk cooperative farmers protested in a similar way, by dumping their produce on roads.
In a move to split the farmers organizations, Maharashtra Chief Minister met some of the leaders of the agitating farmers a day before the strike and promised more investment in agriculture as well as long term solutions for the agrarian sector. However the agitating farmers refused to be taken in by such promises that they have heard many times before and which are never implemented. They proceeded with their strike, reiterating their demand for better prices for their produce and debt waiver.
The farmers’ groups put forth a charter of 18 demands before the state government. These include: a complete loan waiver and electricity bill waiver; a waiver of bank and moneylender loans for families of farmers who have committed suicide; implementation of Swaminathan Commission's recommendations; appropriate remunerative price for agricultural produce; the price of milk to be set at Rs 50 per litre; a pension for farmers after the age of 55; 100% grants for drip irrigation; and making water management a part of school curriculum.
Two successive years of drought have compounded the long standing problems of farmers of Maharashtra. On top of this, the demonitisation carried out in November 2016 resulted in great losses for the Maharashtra farmers, like farmers in other states.They were unable to sell their produce or were forced to accept payment in old currency from traders, due to shortage of the new currency. Thousands of farmers were forced to dump their produce of fruits and vegetables, which are highly perishable. They were unable to sell through bank transactions, even if they had a bank account. In most cases they had taken loans against those same bank accounts, which they had been unable to pay back. So they would risk losing whatever little they managed to earn through the sale of their produce, because the money that came into their bank accounts would be seized by the bank to clear their past loans, leaving them with no money to invest for the next agricultural season. This has further greatly aggravated the crisis of the farmers.
In Nashik district, the main supply market for Mumbai and Thane, farmers are also opposing the forced acquisition of farm land for the proposed 800 km long Mumbai-Nagpur "Samruddhi Corridor" (Prosperity Corridor) project.
The farmers’ agitation once again highlights their terrible condition, squeezed by debt, forced out of their land and traditional occupations, unable to make a livelihood and driven to ruin.