Large swathes of farmers in this country are once again going on a strike. The Rashtriya Kisan Mahasangh (RKM), a federation of 130 farmer organisations, has announced that they will not take to the streets, but instead refuse to supply milk and vegetables to the cites during their 10-day strike from June 1 to 10.
“If they (farmers) want to buy any anything they should buy from their fellow villagers or farmers. If they want to sell their vegetables or any other produce or milk they should sell them in the village. People from the cities and towns are welcome to visit nearby villages and buy whatever they can from the farmers be it vegetables or milk or any other commodity.
Farmers have been told to open huts in the villages and sell their produce at rates that are viable for them. We believe that the farmers will make a profit, and people from the cities will also benefit as they can purchase vegetables and milk at cheaper rates,” says Balbir Singh Rajewal, the president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) Punjab Unit, to The New Indian Express.
The demands of the farmers this time are along the same lines as the nationwide strike last year, which followed the police shooting in Mandasur, Madhya Pradesh, where six farmers died.
As per news reports, their demands are:
1) A one-time loan waiver.
2) A higher minimum support price and better remuneration for their produce.
3) The implementation of the Swaminathan Commission Report.
4) Free power supply for pumps
5) Supporting ethanol as an alternative fuel.
An apparent trigger for this strike is the massive spike in diesel prices in the past month, which has skyrocketed cultivation costs. Heavily dependent on diesel-powered generators and tractors for irrigation and ploughing, the refusal of both the Centre and State governments to do little about it has caused further consternation among them.
However, unlike last year, this year’s strike is reportedly disjointed. Reports cite that there was little coordination among the major farmer groups this time, and consequently, the All India Kisan Sangharsh Samanvay Samiti—a coalition of 193 farmer organisations including the CPI (M)’s All India Kisan Mahasabha—will not be participating in this strike.
“We have learnt about this bandh from the media, and we had no other intimation of any kind,” Yogendra Yadav, founder of Swaraj Abhiyan, told Scroll.in. “This is not our call to strike, but we extend our best wishes to any organisation working for farmers.”
Nonetheless, the strike will have some effect on city dwellers, particularly in North India. In Indore, citizens rushed to their local mandis stocking up on vegetables and fruits before the strike took effect. Cities like Chandigarh, Delhi and Mumbai may also suffer from a shortage of vegetables and milk during this 10-day strike.
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)