Maharashtra: As Dairy Farmers hit the Streets in Protest, Govt may Bring new Scheme to Help them

As dairy farmers in Maharashtra continue their protests against low procurement prices by emptying milk containers on roads to bring attention to the issue the state government is planning to bring in a new scheme to help dairy farmers get better realisations. Minister for Dairy Development, Fisheries and Animal Husbandry, Sunil Kedar, while chairing a meeting of farmer representatives and dairy firms in Mumbai on Tuesday, said the scheme will be announced after consultation with Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and Revenue Minister Balasaheb Thorat.

On Tuesday, members of farmers’ union Shetkari Sanghtana started their day-long protest over the issue by disrupting the supply of milk to Pune and Mumbai. They stopped tankers of the Kolhapur District Cooperative Milk Producers union, which retails milk under the brand Gokul, at various places in Sangli and Kolhapur districts, and took to emptying the milk on the road.

The Sanghtana’s protests join those by other dairy farmers’ bodies, which have been protesting against the low realisation and demanded a direct subsidy from the state government. Dairies have cited low sales due to the pandemic and lockdown, and dip in commodity prices for their decision to slash procurement prices for farmers.

The slashing of prcurement prices comes even as the state government is implementing a scheme to procure excess milk from dairies and converting the same into skimmed milk powder (SMP) and white butter. Till date, nearly 5.61 crore litres of milk have been purchased by the state government and 1,378 tonnes of SMP has been produced.

During the course of the meeting, Kedar said he has spoken to Union minister Nitin Gadkari and former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, urging them to the take up the issue of export subsidy for SMP. The minister said he has also written to the central government in this regard. “We will take a decision on this soon,” he said.

Meanwhile, the All India Kisan Sabha, the farmers’ wing of CPI-M, called the meeting “disappointing” and said its agitation would continue.

Former MP Raju Shetti, the chief of Shetkari Sanghtana, said the organisation will wait till August 5 and then announce its next step. “We have asked for a direct subsidy of Rs 5 per litre, to be paid directly to the farmer’s account. Also, dairies should be paid an export subsidy of Rs 50 per kg for SMP, which will allow them to pay better procurement prices,” he said.

Pune District Cooperative Milk Producers Union to file police case against ‘mischievous message’ The Pune District Cooperative Milk Producers Union, which retails milk and milk products under the brand Katraj, has decided to file a complaint with the Pune Police’s Cyber Cell over a series of WhatsApp messages urging people not to consume milk from the dairy. In a press release issued by the Union, it urged WhatsApp administrators to take note that action will be taken against them if they allow such messages to remain on the group.

Since the last two days, WhatsApp messages have urged people to boycott milk from the dairy as an employee had “died of Covid-19 infection”. The message also claimed that many employees of the dairy had tested positive.

In its press release, the Union stated that a person had died of the infection, but the employee in question had not come to the office almost 10-15 days. The dairy said it has undertaken deep sanitisation of all its premises and units.

 

Source: The article is extracted from The IndianExpress, July 22, 2020.