Milk and vegetables were dumped on the streets on Friday as farmers from seven states launched a 10-day agitation to demand better prices for agricultural produce.
Although the strike was initially declared in Madhya Pradesh to coincide with the first death anniversary of six farmers killed in police firing at Mandsaur last June, it soon spread to Haryana, Rajasthan, Jammu and Kashmir, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala.
While Madhya Pradesh was partially impacted until afternoon, visuals posted by ANI on Twitter showed farmers in Punjab’s Faridkot dumping their produce to demand loan waivers and speedy implementation of the Swaminathan commission report. Farmers were also seen pouring milk on the roads at Ludhiana’s Samrala.
Farmers have vowed to prevent the supply of agricultural produce and other essentials to cities in the state as part of the agitation, dubbed as the ‘gaon bandh’. “This has now become a nationwide agitation. We won’t go to cities, but city residents will have to drive down to villages to buy produce,” Shiv Kumar Sharma, president of the Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh, told mediapersons.
Meanwhile, the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government in Madhya Pradesh deployed as many as 15,000 policemen in affected areas to prevent the occurrence of any untoward incident. No violence was reported from any part of the state until afternoon.
Inspector general (intelligence) Makrand Deouskar said the impact of the strike is likely to be felt in 18 of the 51 districts in the state, especially those in Malwa region. The authorities will face their biggest test on June 6, when Congress president Rahul Gandhi holds a rally in Pipliyamandi near Mandsaur to mark the death anniversary of those killed in the Mandsaur agitation.
Farmer leaders Shivkumar Kakkaji and Anil Yadav dubbed the strike as successful. “Our agitation has remained peaceful and apolitical despite the government exerting pressure on us,” said Yadav.
Although markets in Sehore and Hoshangabad remained closed on Friday, others across the state benefited from an uninterrupted supply of milk and vegetables. There was a partial impact on milk supply in Dhar, but distribution of Sanchi milk from the Madhya Pradesh State Cooperative Dairy Federation Ltd was not hit.
The police took extra precautions on highways that had witnessed violence last year, and milk was transported under heavy security. Vegetable prices had gone up by 15-30% on Thursday, when consumers across all the major cities in the state resorted to stockpiling essential items.
Kedar Sirohi, chief of the Aam Kisan Union, said the agitation is backed by over 150 farmer organisations. However, agriculture minister Gauri Shankar Bisen assured the people that the strike would not affect their day-to-day lives.
“This so-called farmers’ strike does not enjoy the support of farmers. Only Congress-backed office-bearers of certain organisations are involved in this agitation. The farmers are, in fact, happy with the state government’s policies. Police will take action against anybody who tries to stop food from being transported,” said Bisen.
Heavy security has been put in place at Mandsaur, which was the epicentre of the farmer agitation last year. “Traders have assured us that they will stock up on vegetables, making them available to consumers through the duration of the agitation. Milk will be provided through Sanchi outlets,” said Mandsaur collector OP Shrivastava.