Cotton farmers’ stir continues in Maharashtra

November 17th, 2011 - 9:22 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Nagpur/Amravati (Maharashtra), Nov 17 (IANS) Protesting cotton farmers demanding hike in the minimum support prices to Rs.6,000 per quintal Thursday continued with their agitation in parts of Vidharba in eastern Maharashtra.

Stating that the minimum support price at Rs.3,300 was lower than even the existing market rates of Rs.4,000, farmers in Amravati pelted stones on state transport buses and government vehicles.

The protestors blocked the Mumbai-Kolkata National Highway and the Nagpur-Varanasi National Highway at several stretches.

Political parties also joined in the stir to cash on their image building owing to the upcoming municipal polls.

The cotton growing belt of Vidarbha, known to be a Congress-stronghold, is turning into a political battle turf as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Shiv Sena have decided to launch an agitation from Nov 19 and Nov 21 respectively.

“The government has money to bail out (Vijay) Mallya but no money to give to cotton farmers. We will launch an agitation if the government does not agree to the demands by Nov 20,” Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray said in Mumbai.

“The Andhra Pradesh-Maharashtra belt produces 80 percent of the country’s cotton, but its cotton-producing regions are infamous for farmer suicides,” said Kishor Tiwari, president of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), an NGO working towards the cause of farmers and farm widows.

“Initially, it was estimated that Maharashtra will contribute five quintals of cotton per acre, but the production has dropped to only two quintals per acre due to erratic rains and heat,” Tiwari added.

Police have arrested 116 farmers and Sena activists till now, said Tiwari.

Meanwhile, independent legislator Ravi Rana, who has been on an indefinite hunger strike since Monday, was forcefully taken to a hospital by the police.

Rana was detained Monday and lodged in central jail at Amravati.

Several other organisations also blocked roads at many places in Vidarbha in protest against the jail authorities “undemocratic” attitude.

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