Mumbai, July 16: Thousands of milk farmers across Maharashtra launched an agitation for their various demands early on Monday, hitting supply of fresh milk across big and small cities in the state. Scores of milk tankers bound for major cities including Mumbai, Pune, Nagpur, Nashik and others were blocked in different parts of the state, raising the spectre of milk shortage.
As the agitation continued, around a dozen milk tankers each from Nashik and Kolhapur were despatched for Mumbai under armed police escorts, while the Opposition Congress and Nationalist Congress Party and others threw their weight behind the agitators.
The farmers’ groups, led by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana (SSS) and Maharashtra Kisan Sabha (MKS), are demanding a subsidy of Rs 5 per litre milk, waiver of goods and services tax (GST) on butter and milk powder among others.
Tankers laden with lakhs of litres of milk were waylaid and emptied on the roads in Pune, Nashik, Kolhapur, Sangli, Beed, Palghar, Buldana, Washim, Aurangabad and Solapur, while at least one tanker was torched near Amravati en route to the big cities, which are totally dependent on supplies from the rural areas.
In other places, activists performed the symbolic ‘dudh-abhishek’ with milk in major temples in Pandharpur, Pune, Beed, Nashik, Ahmednagar and other places to lodge their protest even as the state government warned of strict action.
At some places, top leaders like SSS President and MP Raju Shetti and MKS President Ajit Nawale took to the streets to block the milk tankers while several big and small milk cooperatives announced support to the farmers’ agitation.
“The state government has fixed the procurement price of Rs 27 per litre but the farmers get barely Rs 17 per litre. We are demanding a direct subsidy of Rs 5 per litre to the farmers, as provided in Goa, Karnataka and Kerala.
“With a drop in the rates of skimmed milk powder, even the milk cooperatives are facing a tough time,” Shetti told the media. (IANS)