Thursday, November 15, 2012

Plight of the Farmers in Maharashtra - In the News

Unrest among Maharashtra State’s sugarcane growers

Police thrash a protesting Shetkari Sanghatana supporter in Indapur on Monday
Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar’s casteist statement about Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana leader and MP Raju Shetty is an attempt to wean farmers of the Maratha community away from Shetty, who form the NCP’s voter base in western Maharashtra.

Pawar said Shetty was causing trouble in the sugar mills of leaders from other communities and sparing sugar mills run by his own community members in his constituency. There are three dimensions to this statement.

Firstly, western Maharashtra has been an NCP-Congress bastion. Leaders from both these parties have realised that the farmers’ agitation indicates their declining legitimacy.

Secondly, this stir has assumed such a proportion in western Maharashtra for the first time after 1980. Thirdly, both these parties have been trying to score political points over each other and ignored the real issue, which created space for the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana.

Earlier, Congress used these agitations to show NCP in poor light. But this time around, the agitators held a dharna in front of Congress leader and State co-operative minister Harshawardhan Patil’s residence at Indapur. It means both the parties are now feeling the heat of the agitation. Hence, Prithviraj Chavan and Pawar don’t want to resolve this issue.

The sugarcane rate of a particular mill is determined by several factors, including subsidies provided by the State and Central governments, development carried out by a sugar mill and the management of that factory. This doesn’t mean that the government has no role in deciding the rate. When the Chief Minister says that the issue is between the farmers and mill managements, he is playing politics.

Pawar’s remarks have been made out of fear that the agitation may erode his voter base. The NCP and Congress have won seats in the last Assembly elections in western Maharashtra by a margin of 10-20 per cent. A 10 per cent swing away from them may result in a debacle in the next elections.

The sugar mills that Pawar has named in his statement as falling under Shetty’s constituency are in their second stage of development. They have successfully installed co-generation plants, distilleries and other processing units. Sharad Pawar said that Shetty allowed mills in his own constituency to continue doing business while spoiling that of mills in others’ constituency.

This is a pure political statement as he himself had referred to a sugar mill run by S R Patil as an ideal example to Rahul Gandhi during the latter’s visit to this part of the sugar belt. Patil’s ‘ideal’ sugar mill incidentally falls within Shetty’s constituency. The sugar mills touched by the ongoing stir are still developing and Pawar wants to indicate that they will be crippled financially by this agitation. Hence, neither the stir nor Shetty is of any use to them. 

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As Prithviraj Chavan completed two years as Maharashtra chief minister, the number of farmer suicides this year rose to 624 with three more distressed peasants ending their lives Sunday, an activist said here. "Despite Dhanteras and the upcoming Diwali, and Prithviraj Chavan completing two years in office today (Sunday), the gloom and despair persists among the debt-trapped farmers of the Vidarbha region. Three more such farmers have chosen to end their lives," said Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari. The chief reason for farmers committing suicide is the failure of the main cash crops.

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A farmer died in police firing at Nandre village in Sangli district of Maharashtra on Monday, police said.

Comment - Rajendra Hardenia (Pipariya, MP, India)

Farmers asking for justice, got bullet. Ganna ( sugar cane ) farmer gunned down. What sort of crime they were committing? They were asking better remunerative price for their produce. Sugarcane is such a crop which can not be stored in warehouse. After cutting from field it must be crushed because as soon as cutting of sugarcane is done, drying and other chemical process starts which leads to deterioration. This gives upper hand of sugar industry on farmers. It is approximately 12 months crop. The input cost has been shoot up many fold. Within two years the cost of fertilizer and pesticide sky rocketed. The cost of 50 kg bag of DAP in July 2010 was Rs. 550/- which is in July 2012 shoot up to 1275/- per 50 kg bag. Same thing is with urea. Even with such exorbitant price there is shortage of Urea. Agricultural machinery requires diesel to operate. Diesel prices gone up. Electricity for irrigation increased, farm labors wages increased, transport of sugarcane from farm to factory increased. Then why the farmers should not expect such remunerative price for sugar cane which may compensate the price rise. Government was silent when the agriculture input cost was increasing and farmers were in trouble. But when troubled farmers demanded justice and stared trouble to industry, the sleepy government came in action to rescue industry and opened fire. One can easily imagine what will happen when foreign companies under FDI deal with farmers, and in case of dispute which type of stern action farmers will have to face.


Several of the around 170 factories in the state have not yet cleared dues of last year's cane-crushing season, the organisation claims. Raghunath Patil of Sharad Joshi-led Shetkari Sanghatana which is also a part of the agitation, said the protest would intensify. "The Government should either lift the ban on sugar exports and remove the levy, or give farmers higher prices," he said.
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Lok Sabha MP Raju Shetty of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, who has launched an agitation to stop the harvesting and transport of sugarcane to mills, demanded an advance of Rs3,000 per ton for farmers. “The sugar mills have begun operations without giving last year’s final rate and this year’s first advance to farmers,” he said.

Last year, the state had announced a first advance of Rs2,050 per ton for Kolhapur and Sangli, Rs1,850 for Pune, Ahmednagar and Solapur and Rs1,800 for the rest of Maharashtra. While Ravi Devang of the Sharad Joshi-led Shetkari Sanghatana demanded a first advance of Rs3,100 per ton for Pune and Ahmednagar and Rs2,900 for the rest of Maharashtra, farmer leader Raghunathdada Patil sought Rs4,500. “The mithai, medicine, soft drinks and confectionary sectors account for bulk of sugar sales. There is no need to give them sugar at low rates at the cost of farmers,” said Patil.

Former deputy chief minister Vijaysinh Mohite-Patil, who heads the Maharashtra Rajya Sahakari Sakhar Karkhana Sangh Limited, said, “The sugar factories and farmers must decide the rate.” Doing away with the 10% levy on sugar production will enable mills to give an additional Rs205 per ton to farmers, Mohite-Patil said. 

While chief minister Prithviraj Chavan held inconclusive discussions with Raghunath Patil, the leader of Shetkari Sanghatana, another farmers' organisation, SSS president and Hatkanangle MP Raju Shetty was remanded in 14-day judicial custody. 

Shetty was detained by police on Monday, which had witnessed the death of two farmers, one of them in police firing, and three policemen getting injured in the agitation . Speaking to reporters before he was lodged at Yerawada jail, Shetty said, "The government wants to crush the agitation. I have lost my workers and, taking moral responsibility of the same, I have decided not to apply for bail. Let Pawar (Sharad Pawar) and his nephew celebrate Diwali. Also, I wish the chief minister a happy Diwali. For us, our struggle for justice continues". 
Patil told reporters the meeting was inconclusive and that the farmers would continue with the agitation. "We asked the CM to implement the C Rangarajan committee recommendations. The CM agreed to the same and assured us that he would hold talks with the central government in this regard. However there was no concrete solution on sugarcane price. Hence we will continue our agitation" said Patil. 

The C Rangarajan report recommends scrapping of major government controls on the sugar sector to move towards the reform process. 

While the police firing on farmers have pushed the ruling coalition into a corner, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) president Sharad Pawar casteist remarks have added fuel to the raging controversy. While reacting to the ongoing agitation by sugarcane farmers over rates given to them by sugar factories for their produce, Pawar asked the audience while speaking in Baramati, "Why don't the agitators go and protest at Warna factory in Kolhapur. Check which community does he [independent MP Raju Shetty who has been spearheading the movement] and the members of Warna factory belong to. It is not fair to target other community's [Marathas] factories and leave one's own."

While the Warna cooperative industry is controlled by Vinay Kore, who is a Lingayat, Shetty is Jain. Pawar has been critical of Shetty ever since the latter went on fast unto death last year at his home turf Baramati.  Bharatiya Janata Party leader Gopinath Munde criticised Pawar and said the NCP leader is trying to digress from the issue. 

Condemning the firing incident in which a farmer was killed in Sangli district, Shiv Sena today flayed NCP president Sharad Pawar over his remarks about a prominent farmers' leader in Maharashtra. Senior Sena leader Diwakar Raote said, "Farmers anywhere do not have caste." Pawar's remarks are "a ploy to split the farmers' agitation," he alleged.

Raote's comments came in the wake of Pawar's remarks in Baramati yesterday that it was not fair to target sugarcane factories owned by a particular community. 
Cane growers in Maharashtra led by Independent MP Raju Shetty have been agitating over rates given to them by sugar factories for their produce.
The agitation over a hike in the current Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) for sugarcane took an ugly turn with the torching of the official car of Maharashtra State Sugar Commissioner Vijay Singhal at his Pune residence in the early hours of Friday.

The Shetkari Sanghatna has taken responsibility for the incident and said that the agitation will continue in the same manner unless the Maharashtra Government takes cognisance of their demands. These include not granting crushing licences to sugar mills till last year’s dues are cleared.

According to Singhal, 28 of the 170 factories that were involved in crushing last season had not yet cleared farmers’ dues, and all of these were running at loss. “We have withheld crushing licences to these 28. Beyond this, I am not authorised to take action against them,” he said, adding that over 100 factories had been issued with licences so far, and around 85 had begun crushing.

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Police arrested 152 farmers in Kolhapur on Wednesday after incidents of violence and clashes with the police occurred in Karvir and Radhanagri areas of Kolhapur district. The district administration has issued prohibitory orders throughout the district under Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, in consideration of the protest.

Members of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana had been protesting in western Maharashtra demanding better prices for the sugarcane crop.

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1 comment:

Mohit Singh said...

It has been the news headlines for quite a few time. Thanks for the latest updates about maharashtra news...