FARMERS VS THE STATE
UP’s farm loan waiver triggers similar demands and fierce violence in two BJP-ruled states
Yogi Adityanath’s proclamation of a partial farm debt waiver in Uttar Pradesh in March has provoked a storm in two other BJP-ruled states. Since June 1, identical scenes have played out across both Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh—furious farmers demanding debt waivers and remunerative prices, blocking milk and vegetable supplies to cities, including Mumbai and Bhopal, and expressing their collective anguish by dumping hundreds of litres of milk and tonnes of fresh produce on the roads.
In Maharashtra, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis faces a tough challenge with two major farmer collectives—the Kisan Kranti Andolan in Ahmednagar and the Kisan Sabha across Nashik, Osmanabad, Aurangabad and Kolhapur—blocking supplies to cause a 40 per cent shortfall in milk and vegetable supplies in metros.
The agitation in neighbouring MP evidently has a bit of political tinge. Called by the Bharatiya Kisan Mazdoor Sangh (a breakaway group of RSS affiliate Bharatiya Kisan Sangh), headed by former BKS chief Shivkumar Sharma, the strike was just as fe-
rocious. Farmers blocking roads clashed with the police and stalled all supplies to cities. The western MP districts of Neemuch, Mandsaur, Dhar, Ratlam, Indore, Shajapur, Khandwa and Dewas bore the brunt of the violent agitation.
Fadnavis has said his government is looking at waiving the debt of 3.1 million (of Maharashtra’s 13.1 million) farmers who’ve been pushed out of the institutional credit system because of pending loans. He said the state would need Rs 30,500 crore to write off the debt. Fadnavis, however, ruled out a complete loan waiver, which at Rs 1.32 lakh crore would be more than Maharashtra’s annual budget of Rs 1.25 lakh crore. Sources in the state government say Fadnavis is exploring the feasibility of waiving the interest on loans taken by the remaining farmers.
MP chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan refused to cave in. He requisitioned the services of BKS’s incumbent chief, Shivkant Dixit, to offer partial cash payment for produce, support prices for onion, tur and moong dal, and the creation of a Rs 1,000 crore agricultural price stabilisation fund if the strike was withdrawn.
While Fadnavis hopes his announcement of a possible loan waiver will calm farmers down, Chouhan appears to be charting a belligerent course by ordering a police crackdown. Nevertheless, the agitation continues in both states. Maharashtra’s Kisan Sabha announced it would extend the strike to the entire state. In MP, the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and BKMS vowed to continue the strike. On June 5, farmers again clashed with riot police in Neemuch. And in Dhar, farmers again threw their produce on the roads.
FARM FURY (Clockwise from top) Farmers emptying their milk containers on the road in Maharashtra’s Aurangabad; tomatoes being thrown away in Aurangabad; a protest in Ahmednagar