The agitation by farmers' organisations demanding a higher cane pay, specially in the cane-rich western Maharashtra, turned violent on Thursday. The activists of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana, led by Lok Sabha Member of Parliament (MP) Raju Shetti, hit the streets and targeted buses operated by the state-run Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation. A large number of buses and private vehicles were damaged due to stone-pelting and fire. State and national highways were blocked.
The activists burnt tyres on major roads and highways in Kolhapur, Sangli and Satara. Their two-day strike demands a cane pay of at least Rs 3,000 a quintal.
Some burnt the effigy of Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, heading a three-member panel formed after an all-party delegation from Maharashtra met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Tuesday. Farmers ignored the state government’s call for restraint.
The transport on the Mumbai-Bangalore national highway was impacted while the vehicular movement on the Mumbai-Ratnagiri state highway come to a halt.
The government has swung into the action and asked the district administration to maintain law and order. State Cooperation Minister Harshvardhan Patil said the damage to the public property will not help find a solution and reiterated the dialogue must go on. Patil urged the farmers to wait for the outcome of the panel. He refuted the allegations the government was dallying. However, Shetti and his confidant Sadabhau Khot stuck to their stand the government was not serious on the issue and, therefore, they had to step up the agitation.