After a week of free milk distribution, dairy farmers in Maharashtra have decided to go on the offensive in their fight to get the government-declared rate of Rs 27 per liter for milk. During a gram sabha at Lakhganga village in Aurangabad’s Vaijapur taluka on Friday afternoon, farmers have decided to ambush the home of the minister of animal husbandry and dairy development in Mumbai next month and remain there till their complaint is looked into.
Early in May, dairy farmers in some areas of the state had taken to distributing milk free of cost to protest against low realisation. Dairies in Maharashtra were paying between Rs 17 and Rs 25 per litre, despite the government fixing the procurement price of milk with 3.5 per cent fat and 8.5 per cent SNF (solid not fat) at Rs 27. It had been done in June last year after the state-wide farmers’ strike.
Dairies had paid the price till around August but then started slashing the prices. Low international price of Skimmed Milk Powder (SMP) and GST on dairy products were cited by the dairies as reasons for their decision to reduce farm gate prices. With SMP prices attaining an all- time low, dairies had complained of heavy losses in their businesses.
The gram sabha of Lakhganga was the first to call for free distribution of milk. Subsequently farmers in various pockets of the state had done so in the first week of May. The state government had meanwhile started issuing notices to cooperative dairies that failed to provide the government-declared price. Also, the minister had announced a Rs 3 per litre subsidy for dairies that reported 20 per cent increase in SMP production for a month. The total cost of the subsidy comes out to Rs 32 crore.
Both agitating farmers and dairies have dished the subsidy as non-productive and said it would not help the farmers. The state already has around 27,000 tonnes of powder, which they said, is eating into the bottom line of dairies due to the complete lack of markets. Instead, they have asked for a Karnataka-like subsidy programme that would see farmers being directly paid Rs 5 per litre.
In a special gram sabha called on Friday, farmers have now decided to go on the offensive. The gram sabha was attended by independent MLA Bacchu Kadu among others. Dhananjay Dhorde, a member of the organising committee, said they have adopted a two-fold action plan. “On June 4, we will be taking our non-productive animals and tying them at every tehsil office,” he said. The next day, being the eve of the coronation day of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, the farmers plan to gate crash into minister Mahadev Jankar’s official residence and remain there till their demand is looked into.
“We will be traveling the length and breadth of the state and ensure our movement is a success,” Dhorde said.
Farmers, however, would continue to supply milk to the dairies and there will be no stoppage to supply for the urban areas. Dhorde said they have taken the decision to avoid economic losses to farmers.
Last year when farmers had gone on the strike, they had stopped supplies to the cities. Dairies, however, had managed to continue normal supplies even as milk from outside the state, especially from Gujarat and Karnataka, came in to tide over the crisis.
This time, the leaders said instead of economic losses to the farmers, they will be ambushing the minister and taking the level of agitation a step ahead. “We hope this will fetch us the desired results,” Dhorde said.