Pune: Veteran farmers' leader Sharad Joshi, who spearheaded several campaigns across the country to press for remunerative prices for agriculturists, died in Pune on Saturday
Joshi, 81, was suffering from age-related ailments and the end came at his residence in Pune, according to his family. An erudite scholar, Joshi also had a term in the Rajya Sabha as an elected member from 2004-10, when he served on as many 16 parliamentary committees
He gave up a decade-long lucrative assignment with International Bureau of Universal Postal Union (UPU) based in Switzerland in 1977 to return to India and take up the farmers' cause. He formed his trend-setting outfit Shetkari Sanghatana in 1979, galvanising the unorganised farmers' movement in the state.
After launching the outfit from his farm at Chakan near here, Joshi shot into limelight by leading a prolonged agitation of onion growers in Nashik district, which took a violent turn leading to his arrest. He soon expanded his sphere of activity by taking up the issue of remunerative prices for a wide range of farm produce like sugar cane, rice, cotton, tobacco and also milk and joined hands with Mahendra Singh Tikait, farmers' leader from the North to set up a non-political co-ordination committee of all farmers' organisations in the country 1982.
Launching his initial stir from his home state Maharashtra, Joshi later spread his wings and influence in Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat and also to the south by organizing agitations for remunerative prices in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. Liberal and progressive in outlook, he also sought to amalgamate the farmers' cause with that of women's empowerment and organized a massive rally of women farmers and farm labourers at Chandwad in Nashik in 1986 attracting about two lakh women.
An erudite scholar, Joshi hailed for his deep knowledge of agricultural economics as he famously sought to distinguish between the conceived image of 'elitist India' and 'Bharat', rooted in the country's soil and ethos.
Entering the realm of politics, he floated a political party in 1994 named 'Swatantra Bharat', envisaging in its manifesto a complete revamp of the country social, economic and political system aimed at minimal government interference. He also served as chairman on Central government's Agriculture Consultative Committee in 1990-91 with a cabinet rank.
Active till the end, Joshi had authored many books in English and Marathi dealing with various issues concerning agricultural economics and also women's empowerment.
Just as he turned 81 recently, he had expressed his desire to rejoin the farmers' cause dear to his heart on the issue of the controversial Land Acquisition Bill.