Soon, it may not be just onions and potatoes that you shell out more money for: other kitchen basics like milk, oranges and sugar may join the league of unaffordable items too, thanks to the strike called by the Swabhiman Shetkari Sangathan (SSS).
Sugarcane farmers under the SSS have been agitating for better price of their crops, but the state government has failed to arrive at any consensus in the matter. Frustrated, the farmers have declared that if their demands are not met within two days, they would ensure that trucks carrying produce to the city’s markets are stopped, and that the protest could turn violent.
Raju Shetty, MP and president of the SSS, said, “We will wait for two more days. However, if a decision is not taken in the stipulated time period, then we shall carry out the protest our way.”He added, “The agricultural ministry has increased production costs for farmers but hasn’t done anything for the farmers, forcing them to incur heavy losses. Hence, we began this agitation. We don’t want the common man to suffer but we don’t have a choice.”
Each day around 5,000 trucks carrying food grains and produce enter the city. However, if the strike is called, these trucks won’t enter the market and items to be most affected are onions, oranges, milk and sugar. A trader said that retailers might take advantage of the situation and hike the prices.
Speaking about the protest, Sunil Kale, former president of the Bombay Goods and Truck Association, said, “This agitation is spreading like wildfire and traffic on the the major national highways in Karntaka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu are being affected. Ultimately, the supply of vital items such as onions and milk will be affected, as trucks carrying them are being stopped.”
MiD DAY approached the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) in Vashi to determine if supply would be affected. Director Kirti Rana said that they had stock for this week but if the agitation continued and trucks were stopped, then supply would be affected, disrupting the demand and supply chain. All this is sure to affect the common man. Bharti Jaiswal, a housewife, said, “Whatever happens, it is always the common man who has to suffer. I can’t imagine what we will do if the prices of groceries increase.”
What the sugarcane farmers demand
In 2010-2011, making similar demands, farmers had insisted that they be paid Rs 2,200 per tonne of sugarcane. Last year, they demanded Rs 2,600. Farmers are now demanding that sugar factories pay them Rs 3,000 per tonne as the first installment. But most sugar factories in the state have expressed their inability to pay the amount, citing slump. They are willing to pay Rs 2,600 per tonne, which is not acceptable to farmers.
Debt-hit farmer commits suicide
Belgaum: A depressed sugarcane farmer on Wednesday committed suicide near the state secretariat while protesting against non-payment of arrears by a sugar mill, police said. “The incident occurred when Vithal Arabhavi (52) consumed poison and collapsed after addressing fellow farmers, protesting near the secretariat, seeking payment of arrears for their sugarcane crop by a mill owner,” a senior police official said.
Though Arabhavi, who hails from Kankanwadi village of Belgaum district, was rushed to a hospital, he died on the way. Arabhavi was in debt, having raised Rs 6 lakh from banks and moneylenders to grow sugarcane on his 2.5-acre field. “Depressed for failing to repay the debt, Arabhavi went behind the stage where farmers were demonstrating since Monday for arrear payment and higher support price from the state government, and consumed pesticide,” the official said.
“We can’t predict the losses but if the agitation continues for more days, then the prices will surely double,” said Tejas Shah, grocery wholesaler. “If the situation continues for an extended period of time, then people will have to endure problems and will have to shell out more,” said Ravi Furari, Jain traders.