Maharashtra: Cane protest turns violent, protesters set fire to 10 trucks

Parthasarathi Biswas
The incident took place when cane harvested from local fields was being taken to a mill in Karnataka through Kolhapur’s Shirol taluka.

The ongoing agitation for higher cane prices in Maharashtra turned violent on Thursday morning, when members of farmers’ union Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana allegedly torched 10 trucks ferrying cane in Kolhapur.

The incident took place when cane harvested from local fields was being taken to a mill in Karnataka through Kolhapur’s Shirol taluka.

The Sanghtana, led by former MP Raju Shetti, started the agitation about a week ago to demand better realisation for cane farmers. The union has asked mills not to start their operations till a decision is made about cane pricing for the upcoming season.

A meeting between millers and farmers’ unions, held in Kolhapur on Sunday, failed to arrive at a resolution as millers wanted to pay the government-notified Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) in three installments, a proposal the farmers’ unions refused to accept.

Now, all eyes are on the Oosh Parishad, or cane conclave, to be held in Kolhapur on Saturday, where Shetti is expected to announce the union’s demand about cane prices for the current season. Two mills in Kolhapur district, which had started their operations, have suspended crushing operations in the wake of the agitation.

State Sugar Commissioner Shekhar Gaikwad has sought a report from Kolhapur authorities about the two mills which started crushing last week. Mills in Maharashtra are expected to start their operations from Friday and mills that start their operations before the scheduled date can face a hefty fine imposed by the commissioner’s office. Most mills in Pune and Satara are expected to start their operations on Friday as this region has not reported any shortage of cane.