Various farmer organisations, under the banner of Shetkari Sanghatana Sukanu Samiti, have called for a ‘Jail Bharo Andolan’ on May 14, across the state of Maharashtra. The court arrest, by over two lakh farmers, is slated to take place on the birth anniversary of Chhatrapati Sambhaji Maharaj. They will be protesting against the ‘anti-farmer’ attitude of the state government.
Their grievances are the ill implementation of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Sanman Scheme (loan waiver scheme), failure to secure Minimum Support Price for milk farmers and waiver of power bills of farmers.
Farmer organisations, which have called for the protest include Shetkari Sanghatana, All India Kisan Sabha, Baliraja Shetkari Sangh, Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha, and Akhil Bharatiya Shetkari Sangh, among others.
“Despite giving assurances, the government did not implement the schemes. We have conducted various agitations so far, like not paying electricity bills, observing fasts, launching a protest march etc., but the farmers could not get any relief,” PTI quoted Kishor Dhamale of Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha as saying.
A failed attempt at alleviation
Responding to the deplorable condition of farmers, Maharashtra's chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had announced the so-called historic farm loan waiver – titled Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana – in the state on June 24, 2017. The Rs 34,000 crore farm loan waiver scheme intended to help 89 lakh farmers in debt, out of which loans of around 40 lakh farmers were to be completely written off.
However, as reported by Firstpost, the scheme benefitted only 31 lakh farmers and loans worth Rs 12,262 crores were waived till January 2018. The report mentioned technical glitches, mismatches in data and tussles in bureaucracy, as reasons for the slow progress, turning the Aadhaar-linked farm loan waiver scheme into a nightmare.
The mismatch, caused due to the Aadhaar-mapping of loan accounts, resulted in the first combined master list of only 2.39 lakh valid applicants who were eligible for loan waiver, which is just 3 percent of the applications received from farmers by the government.
Pointing towards this fiasco, Raghunathdada Patil, leader of Shetkari Sanghatana said, “After the announcements of farm loan waiver, around 2,000 farmers have committed suicide. The loan waiver hasn’t helped in stopping farmer suicides. We don’t accept the government’s loan waiver. It should be a complete loan waiver for all farmers”.
Only “broken promises” for milk farmers
After a week-long strike by the farmers in Maharashtra, the government, in June 2017, promised better prices to milk producers, a likely increase of Rs 3 per litre. The revised price at which the dairies were to purchase cow milk was estimated to be at Rs 27 per litre.
However, the promise turned out to be just another ludicrous attempt of the state government to appease the angry farmers.
Expressing anguish over the present situation of milk farmers, Kishor Dhamale of Satyashodhak Shetkari Sabha said, “Around three crore litres of milk is produced every day in Maharashtra. The government had promised the rate of Rs 27 per litre, but farmers are getting the rate of Rs 20 per litre. They have to bear losses of Rs 21 crore every day which means the losses of Rs 7,000 crore (from June 2017) till today."
Unending tale of agrarian crisis in Maharashtra
Last year, a state-wide farmers' strike was called in Maharashtra by Kisan Kranti, which rocked Madhya Pradesh as well and resulted in the deaths of six farmers in Mandsaur district. After the passage of one year, the reality of farmers is still the same, resulting in a sentiment of discontent towards the state. Considering the perpetual endeavours of different governments to only play politics in the name of alleviating the condition of farmers, maybe jail is the only place left for survival.