Bombay (Mumbai): Milk overflowing on the roadside isn’t a sign of prosperity but protest. Cattle owners stopped milk transport vehicles and emptied the content on roads in several districts of Maharashtra. Farmers’ organisations are demanding a hike of Rs 5 per litre in the milk procurement price and have decided to suspend the supply to Mumbai and Pune.
The impact of the protest was also felt on the Amul dairy’s collection centres at Vasai and Virar in the neighbouring Palghar district as the cooperative giant decided not to collect milk from farmers and cattle owners during the day.
Amul is the single largest supplier of milk to Bombay. A drop in Amul’s milk supply would have a bad impact the metropolis, a senior state government official said.
As many as 55 lakh milk pouches are sold in Bombay every day, with the Gujarat-based cooperative having the highest market share of 30 per cent, followed by the Kolhapur-based Gokul.
Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana chief Raju Shetti, who is spearheading the protest, said: “Farmers sell milk to dairies at Rs 17 per litre. After processing it, the dairies package it in pouches and sell it at a minimum rate of Rs 42 per litre. The difference in earnings has not been passed on to the farmers.”
He said they were compelled to take up the agitation as the state government did not pay heed to their demands.
“We are not happy to waste milk but the government is protecting dairies and not considering farmers’ woes,” he said. “We have decided to protest out of compulsion as other ways to convince the government failed,” Shetti said.
The agitation will ‘intensify further’ if the state government fails to fulfil the demands, Shetty who represents Kolhapur in the Lok Sabha, warned. Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel has also extended his support to the agitation, Shetti said.
Members of various farmers’ organisations decided to escalate their protest after they noticed that despite their Opposition, several dairies were planning to supply milk to Mumbai and Pune.
The districts of Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara and Pune in western Maharashtra – the epicentre of the agitation — are the major milk producers and suppliers to Mumbai and other cities. Milk is also produced on a large scale in Ahmednagar, Nashik, Jalgaon, Nanded and Parbhani districts.
According to PTI, Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis disapproved of the agitation and said the government was open for talks on any issue. Saying that milk supply would not be affected, he said the government has not adopted an “egoistic view” on any issue. “Our doors are always open for discussion…. The government has not adopted an egoistic view on any issue. But the way the current protest is going on is not right,” the chief minister told reporters in Nagpur.
Fadnavis did not favour the idea of transferring the subsidy to the milk producers directly.
“Only 40 per cent of the milk producers are registered with the body representing them. The remaining 60 per cent are not registered. So, direct transfer (of subsidy amount) may lead to a kind of scam,” he said.