Mumbai: The sugarcane farmers are agitating across several districts in Maharashtra for higher prices for their produce, against sugar co-operatives. And politics, as ever, is part of the mix. During the protests, a police van was torched in Karvir Kolhapur as the protests in western Maharashtra intensified, and some irate framers also pelted stones.
Several policemen abandoned their vehicles and ran from the spot. Meanwhile, state transport buses, several of which were vandalised since the violence on Monday, also stopped plying. While the police deployed additional SRPF companies to deal with the law and order, no political solution seemed in sight.
Sadabhau Khot, the farmer leader who along with MP Raju Shetti is leading the agitation seeking a higher first advance for their crop was, meanwhile, released on bail. Following his release, he said, "The sugar factories are owned by these very politicians. Why will they then intervene?"
The charge that the sugar lobby, sugar cooperatives owned by powerful politicians belonging to the Congress and the NCP are opposing increase in the sugarcane prices was echoed by activist-turned-politician Arvind Kejriwal, who tweeted his support to the agitation.
Kejriwal tweeted: "How many sugar mills in Maharashtra owned by NCP men, BJP men, Cong people? Which ministers own sugar mills? That data wud explain why govt not giving better sugarcane prices and favoring sugar mill owners."
The situation remained tense across western Maharashtra. There were sporadic road blockades being reported from Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur districts. As many as two farmers also died in the course of the agitation, one of them in police firing in Sangli.
In 2011, the government was forced to step in after 12 days of aggressive protests, to ensure that the farmers were given a higher first advance. The farmers though say that their dues from last year are yet to be cleared. This year, though the government has refused to enter into a dialogue even as those leading the agitation are threatening to go on a fast.