Gujarat farmers throw milk on roads to demand loan waiver

Ahmedabad, July 6: Farmers in different parts of Gujarat on Wednesday spilled thousands of litres of milk onto the roads to press for their demand for waiver of their agriculture loans and threatened to repeat this for two days.

The protest was supported by members of Kshatriya Thakor Sena headed by OBC Ekta Manch leader Alpesh Thakore, who said the farmers had given an ultimatum to the state government to waive their loans by July 4. The farmers launched the agitation since the demand was not heeded, he added.

Wednesday's protest to spill milk was akin to the one staged by farmers in the neighbouring Maharashtra before the loans of farmers were waived.

Led by Thakore, the Thakor Sena members first gathered on Ahmedabad's busy Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway, from where several roads lead to various regions of Gujarat, in the afternoon and poured a large quantity of milk on the road. He and many others who tried to the road were detained by police.

Just when he was being whisked away, he told reporters that the farmers would not supply milk for the next two days causing a shortage across the State.

However, authorities denied that there was any milk shortage in Gujarat. "There is no shortage of milk with Amul in Gujarat. Not even a litre. I can confidently tell all our customers that you don't need to hoard milk as 36 lakh farmers from across the state continue to supply milk to us. Ahmedabad alone sees sale of 15 lakh litres," said Amul managing director R.S. Sodhi.

Health Minister Shankar Chaudhary, who is also chairman of north Gujarat's Banas Dairy and Health, asserted that dairies "already have three to four days of advance stocks and there will be no shortage even if the milk supply stops by a day or two".

"If milk collections stops for two days, farmers lose Rs 120 crore. Gujarat dairies collect 1.45 lakh litres milk every day and we have done so even yesterday," he added.

Thakore meanwhile said: "We have planned a march from Sabarmati Ashram to Gandhinagar. If the government does not take our demand seriously, we will intensify the agitation." 

In the north Gujarat town of Palanpur, farmers deflated tyres of vehicles carrying milk to a local dairy. Protests were also staged in Mehsana and other parts of the state, mostly supported by the Thakor Sena.

The farmers in the state are citing the instances of Punjab, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh where the government have already waived agriculture loans.