Maharashtra CM’s let-down for cotton growers

Pleads election code of conduct to postpone minimum support price decision

By Aparna Pallavi
Published: Thursday 01 December 2011

In a major disappointment for agitating cotton farmers of Maharashtra, chief minister Prithviraj Chavan has refused to take a decision on the long-standing demand for raising minimum support price of cotton. He excused himself citing in place election code of conduct for the forthcoming civic body election. 

Cotton growing farmers from Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh regions had been agitating for Rs 5,000 per quintal minimum support price (MSP) for cotton since last week. They were also demanding Rs 10,000 per hectare compensation for crop losses.

Farmer groups say that since 1995, cotton prices have gone up by just about 2.5 times, from Rs 1,330 to Rs 3,300 in 2011. On the other hand, the cost of cultivation has gone up more than 4.5 times and currently stands at nearly Rs 11,000 per hectare. Cotton picking costs have gone up seven times from Rs 1 per kg in 1995 to Rs 7 per kg at present. “Unless MSP is raised suitably, cotton growing will become a loss-making endeavour,” says Shetkari Sanghatana activist Gajanan Amdabadkar.

Chavan says the decision will be taken on December 12, on the first day of the winter session of the state Assembly at Nagpur, following two consecutive meetings on the issue of cotton MSP, first an all-party meeting and then a meeting with farmer representatives, on the issue on November 23. He also called upon farmer groups to withhold  their agitations.

The CM’s action has been received with great disappointment and anger by farmer groups and political parties. Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti, in defiance of the CM’s call, held dharnas and chakka jam in several places in Yavatmal district on November 24. Prakash Pohare of Samagra Vikas Aghadi says that the agitation will be called off on December 5, and resume thereafter if a decision is not taken by government. BJP has announced a protest march demanding MSP rise to start from Latur and reach Nagpur on December 12.

BJP MLA Devendra Fadnavis says the government has taken many decisions including clearing the files of the Adarsh housing scam when election code of conduct was in force but is dilly-dallying with the demands of the poor farmers.

Leader of opposition Eknath Khadse says that just a week ago the CM announced a package for sugarcane growing farmers when the code of conduct was in force. “So why the stepmotherly treatment for cotton growers?” he asks.

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