Cotton farmers protest against proposed bailout package


Nagpur: Terming as peanuts the proposed bailout package for cotton farmers in Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region, over 2,000 farmers blocked a state highway Wednesday as part of a seven-day-old agitation.

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The Chandrapur-Yavatmal highway was blocked by protesters near Rampur village, 120 km from here.

The agitating farmers demanded Rs.6,000 per quintal as the minimum support price for raw cotton as against the market price of Rs.4,000 per quintal.

“This is the seventh day in a row that farmers are protesting at several places across Vidarbha. The demand is being supported by all the political parties, including the ruling Congress and the NCP (Nationalist Congress Party), but the state government is unmoved,” said Kishor Tiwari of Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, a farmers’ advocacy group.

Tiwari met Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan Sunday to apprise him of the hardships faced by farmers in Vidarbha due to crop damage.

“I have suggested that a subsidy of Rs.20,000 per hectare for cotton and Rs.15,000 per hectare for soya be paid to farmers to compensate for the 40 percent loss of crop this year,” Tiwari said.

“But I am sceptical about any package. I am told the bureaucrats are asking the chief minister to announce a paltry relief. This will be too little, too late and only fuel the farmer suicide crisis in Vidarbha,” he warned.

Hundreds of Vidarbha farm widows are likely to start a hunger strike Thursday.

An all-party meeting convened by Chavan on the issue remained inconclusive. Chavan also met representatives of farmer organisations and assured them of appropriate steps.

The Congress has sought a separate financial package for the farmers while pursuing the demand for an increase in the minimum support price for cotton with the central government.