November 3rd, 2017
Four large-scale state-wide agitations to protest the Maharashtra government’s alleged anti-farmer policies were announced on 1 November 2017 in Mumbai by the Steering committee representing several farmer organisations in the state, said a report by The Hindu.
Reasons behind farmer agitations
The state-wide agitation began on Wednesday, will aim to put an end to the alleged illegal collection of electricity charges and severing power supply to entire villages by the Maharashtra State Electricity Board (MSEB) and the state government. Maharashtra State of Convenor of Steering Committee, Dr Ajit Navle said, “We’re going to take matters now into our own hands. Across Maharashtra, farmers will gather in huge numbers at the office of power supply companies and reconnect power supplies to various villages where the connection has been cut for a long time.” Electricity suppliers have been disconnecting services of farmers to make them pay their dues.
The second agitation is aimed at protesting against the demonetisation on the 1st anniversary of demonetisation. The unorganised sector was badly hit by demonetisation, specifically farmers. Raghunath Dada Patil, President, Shetkari Sanghatana said, “Thousands of farmers were severely crippled by demonetisation, and many are yet to recover from the loss incurred during that period of time.” He further said, “The MSEB has been granted a funding of nearly Rs 20,0000 crore to ensure that the farmers in the state get a minimum electricity supply of 16 hours per day. In reality, farmers only get a supply of 8 hours per day. Whoever cut the connection for the farmers, we will ensure that their offices will get locked by the farmers from November.”
Protest on 1-year completion of demonetisation will be held on November 10 outside government offices against state’s failure to announce complete loan waiver and ensure minimum support price for all agricultural products. The third agitation will demand a complete loan waiver from the government. Dr Navle further said, “Only 8.5 lakh farmers of the state’s total 89 lakh farmers have received the farmers loan waivers. We are protesting the government’s policy of giving loan waivers in stages for the rest. We want loan waivers at one go, for all the farmers of the state.”
The fourth campaign shall be launched if the government fails to act on their demands after three protests. The Steering Committee said they will take resort to the fourth protest if their demands are not met within the course of the three protests. The fourth agitation will be named as the “Jail Bharo Andolan”
“The MSP of soybean was set at Rs 3,050 per quintal. However, due to overproduction, farmers have been forced to sell it for as low as Rs 1,900 to Rs 2,000 (per quintal). The government plans to buy one lakh tonnes but that is only three percent of the total production this year. Because of the states’ lethargy in addressing these issues, we will dump all these agricultural produce outside government offices on November 10,” said Ajit Navle, according to a report by The Indian Express.
Granting loan waivers to farmers and delay
The initial agitation had forced CM Devendra Fadnavis to come out with the loan waiver scheme. To appease farmers and deter them from agitating any further, CM Fadnavis had declared government’s loan waiver scheme will benefit 89 lakh farmers, costing Rs 34,022 crore to the exchequer. The government had limited its waiver amount to Rs 1.5 lakh per farmer, a premise on which one of the upcoming agitation is based.
The government has opened a master loan waiver bank with the ICICI bank, from where the money will be disbursed to the accounts of the beneficiaries. The State Cooperation Minister Subhash Deshmukh said that the government has prepared a list, “green list” of more than 1.01 lakh farmers and the money will be transferred to their account.
Farmer leaders in the Steering Committee said the terms and conditions imposed by the government have rendered lakhs of farmers ineligible for the waiver. Despite the announcement that the loan waivers will be effective after Diwali, many farmers are yet to receive the loan waiver. The government blamed the banks for inaccurate data on applicants.
The government initially said the money could not be transferred owing to the festive season and banks being closed to it. A few days later, it became clear that information received from banks had several irregularities including multiple Aadhaar cards connected to one number and identical account numbers. Mr Deshmukh said, “The process is taking time as we are scrutinising each account to make the process transparent.”
The Logical Indian take
The Logical Indian community urges the government of Maharashtra to ensure that the loan waivers are meted out to the farmers in the “green list” prepared by the government, in utmost efficacy. The Logical Indian expresses its concern for farmers in Maharashtra who in absence of security cover, are forced into distress sale of their crops. The timely announcement of Minimum Support Price (MSP) and assured procurement from farmers can go a long way in fulfilling the promises the establishment gives them. The government is requested to lend an ear to cries of our farmers.