The Maharashtra government held a meeting with all the stakeholders about the price of milk being fetched by farmers on Tuesday. However, there was no decision announced following the discussion. The indecision has angered farmers across the state further, with the state government in the line of fire.
The agitation by the farmers entered its third day on Wednesday, with hundreds of farmers across the milk belt comprising ten districts in the state out on the road.
The price being received for milk by the farmers has gone down from between Rs 30 and Rs 35 per litre (depending on the fat content) to between Rs 17 and Rs 22 during the lockdown period. The state government's scheme to procure extra milk from farmers to make milk powder has failed to accommodate all the farmers in the state.
There are no signs of revival in the price of milk, and farmers have been out on the road to protest against the state government. To find a way out, Maharashtra's dairy development minister Sunil Kedar met stakeholders, including farmer leaders and owners and directors of private and cooperative dairies.
However, the meeting did not result in a decision. The Dudh Utpadak Shetkari Sangharsha Samiti (milk producing farmers struggle committee) and the All India Kisan Sabha were asking for immediate relief to farmers.
“There government should give direct subsidy to farmers at Rs 10 per litre. Also, more and more farmers should be included in the milk powder scheme and for that, the government should include all the private dairies into the scheme,” Dr. Ajit Nawale, who represented AIKS, said in the meeting.
Sadabhau Khot, a farmer leader from the Rayat Shetkari Sanghatna, asked the state government to set Rs 30 per litre as the fixed rate for cow milk. He said that the state government failed to plan for dairy production during the lockdown. “The government should have intervened long ago. It should have asked private dairies to immediately procure the milk for powder and given them technical assistance. However, that didn't happen because the ministry is clueless," said Khot. He was the Minister of State for dairy development during the previous BJP- Shiv Sena government.
Raju Shetti, leader of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana, asked the state government to talk to the Centre about the import of milk powder. “There is confusion in all the dairies about the production of milk powder. If the Centre is going to import more and more powder then the rates here will come down and the farmer here would suffer," said Shetti.
On Wednesday, AIKS continued with protests in Solapur, Sangali, Kolhapur, Ahmednagar and Nashik district. Farmers poured milk on roads and milk tankers were stopped from transporting milk. Ashok Dhavale, national president of AIKS, said that the agitation will be intensified across the state. "We were demanding immediate relief. The state government is aware of all our problems. Tuesday’s meeting was convened to take decisions. What is there be discussed, over and over again, if you are not going to take a decision? Farmers will protest against the state government now," he said.
The issue is expected to be brought up at a Cabinet meeting on Thursday. “I have heard everyone. On Thursday, I will raise the topic in the cabinet meeting. The state government understands the pain of farmers. We will come up with decision to help the farmers as well as dairies, soon," said Sunil Kedar after the meeting.