Ten days after an assurance was given to the dairy farmers stating that the milk rates will be restored to the pre-lockdown scale, there has been no action to this effect, which has irked the farmers in the state.
Dairy Development Minister Sunil Kedar, in a high-level meeting held on June 25, had assured the farmers that the rates will be raised. Meanwhile, farmers say that they are being looted by the cartel of dairy owners and directors.
"We were told that the milk rates per litre would be restored to Rs 35 to 38, as were during the pre-lockdown times. This was supposed to happen immediately. But 10 days have passed and nothing has changed. Farmers are still selling milk for Rs 20 to 24 per litre. This means that the government doesn't wish to help the farmers and go against private dairies," said Ajit Navale, All India Kisan Sabha's state general secretary.
On June 16, more than 23 districts of Maharashtra saw protests by dairy farmers. The state produces 1 cr 40 lakh litres of milk per day out of which 40 lakh litres go to the milk processing and dependent industries (like sweets manufacturers). There are about 60 lakh dairy farmers, 40 lakh out of which deal with private or cooperative dairies.
As a statewide lockdown was announced on April 14, the farmers in the state have been selling the milk at merely Rs 20-24 per litre to the private dairy owners since then. The lowering of rates was said to be due to a slump in the demand following the closure of the restaurants.
"But in reality, the demand by the restaurants is not big enough to impact the rates in such a way. Household consumption has continued, which claims the largest share in total milk consumption. There is no evidence based on which to say that household consumption has gone down," said Kisan Gujar, president of AIKS Maharashtra.
In the meeting, the minister had also assured the farmers that a new FRP (fair and remunerative price) law for milk is being contemplated, bringing the entire -- cooperatives and private -- industry under it so that the milk rates can be maintained. "We can understand that bringing in such a law can't happen immediately. But the government should first take action against the private dairies who are refusing to pay as per the instructions," said Dr Navale.
As part of a drive by the AIKS, CPI(M) MLA Vinod Nikole has appealed to the MLAs and MLCs in state to raise this issue during the legislative session starting from July 5. "The session is for just two days. But I will raise the issue in the house as well as protest on the steps of the building. Some MLAs will meet all the senior ministers as well as the opposition leaders. Government has to keep its word and restore the rates back to pre-lockdown scale,” said Nikole.