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Man Behind Dairy Farmers’ Strike in Maharashtra Tells What it Would Take to Call Off Protest

Shetti has been adamant that he will not withdraw the indefinite agitation until the government agrees to increase the remuneration of milk by Rs 5 per litre or it transfers the money directly to dairy farmers’ accounts.

Vinaya Deshpande | CNN-News18

Updated:July 16, 2018, 5:35 PM IST
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Man Behind Dairy Farmers’ Strike in Maharashtra Tells What it Would Take to Call Off Protest
File photo of protesters spilling milk from a tanker on the roads in Sangamner area of Ahmednagar in Maharashtra. (Chaitanya Mangure/News18)
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Mumbai: Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana chief Raju Shetti, who has mobilized dairy farmers across Maharashtra for a strike, seeking higher remunerative prices for milk, has slammed the BJP-led government in the state and at the Centre and expressed anguish at the lack of willingness to help farmers.

While speaking to CNN-News 18, Shetti put forth the gravity of problems faced by dairy farmers and talked about the several alternatives government can use to help distressed farmers.

He said he won’t call off the indefinite strike till government agrees to pay additional Rs 5 per litre to farmers. Currently, farmers get Rs 17 per litre for the milk they sell to cooperative societies.

“I won’t talk to Mahadev Jankar. I will only talk to the Chief Minister or the Finance Minister of Maharashtra. What is the point of holding talks with someone who doesn’t have any powers?” Shetti said.

Jankar is Maharashtra’s minister for animal husbandry, dairy development and fisheries development.

Shetti has been adamant that he will not withdraw the indefinite agitation until the government agrees to increase the remuneration of milk by Rs 5 per litre or it transfers the money directly to dairy farmers’ accounts.

When asked about the additional cost it will add to the already burdened state exchequer, he said, “If the government plans it well, it will require Rs 400 crore.”

“If the CM alone can make Rs 2,000 crore on the Panvel land scam, is it difficult for him to arrange Rs 400 crore?” Shetti alleged.

He claims that the agitation has been successful from the time it was announced. “Every day, farmers sell 2.40 crore litres of milk. Today, less than 25 lakh litres has been collected. No market has the capacity to fill this deficit. There will definitely be milk shortage in the coming days,” he predicted.

At some places, his party workers have already vandalised milk trucks and have spilled milk on the streets. “I have appealed to everyone to not spill milk. They should instead distribute it among the needy,” Shetti says.

Explaining the economics behind the protest, he said, “There is an additional supply of 20 lakh litres milk daily in the state. This does not get packaged in pouches and sold in the market. There is already substantial supply of milk for production of other milk-related produce like curd, cheese, milk powder, lassi, curd. The international milk market is also down these days. Thus, the prices of milk have come down. But if the government intervenes in buying or subsidising this 20 lakh litres’ of milk every day, it can give respite to farmers,” he said.

When asked about the possible solutions, he said he has requested the Indian government to tap the Chinese market for selling India’s milk produce.

“Currently, a trade war is going on between America and China. China needs milk products, but it doesn’t want to buy them from USA or Europe. We can export our excess milk to China. I have already met Piyush Goyal and Suresh Prabhu and have given them a letter for the same demand. A meeting will be held under the leadership of Suresh Prabhu on 23rd or 24th of this month to decide on it,” he said.

“For this, the government will have to give incentives for processing of additional milk. This can be done by issuing tenders. But the problem for government is that nobody will get any commission, or make money from it,” Shetti claimed.

He further explained that it takes 11 litres of milk to produce 1 kg milk powder. The government has already announced subsidy of Rs 3 per litre of milk, making it Rs 33. There is an existing subsidy of Rs 50 for production of milk powder. This takes the total current subsidy to Rs 83.

“Several private players are willing to pay Rs 25 per litre to farmers if the government assures them of buying the milk powder at Rs 75 per kg. This is lesser compared to the subsidy the government gives right now,” he claimed.

The last option, he suggests, is that of sending the buffer stock to poor countries. “This will increase our country’s goodwill. When government buys the buffer stock from market, it automatically stabilises the milk prices,” he said.

The government has already given Rs 53 crore in subsidy for processing of milk into milk powder. Maharashtra minister Chandrakantdada Patil said that the private milk societies had also agreed to give an additional price of Rs 3 for every litre of milk to farmers.

But Raju Shetti is unconvinced. “There is only one-point agenda. And the protest will continue till the government accepts it,” he said.



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| Edited by: Sana Fazili
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