Nashik (Maharashtra), Dec 11 (IANS): Hitting a public agitation again after four years for the cause of onion growers, Nationalist Congress Party President Sharad Pawar said that “till you take to the streets, the government won’t listen” and demanded revocation of the Centre’s ban on onion exports, here on Monday.
Pawar, 83, went down to Chandwad in Nashik, one of the onion-growing hubs in the state and joined a protest march, a road-block on the Mumbai-Agra National Highway here and a sit-in agitation by the farmers who raised anti-government slogans.
“After the Centre’s ban on onion exports, the prices of this vegetable have fallen in the country…This has led to anger among the farming community. Due to the policies of the government, the tillers are not getting the value for their hard work,” slammed Pawar.
The Maratha leader made it clear that “we have no interest in doing such agitations, but till you hit the streets, the government won’t take note of your problems”, terming it as ‘unfortunate’.
Pawar recalled how when he was the Agriculture Minister (May 2004-May 2014), he had clearly assured that the prices of onion will not be allowed to fall, but the present government has not been able to do that.
Instead, he accused the government of mocking the farmers by the ban on onion exports till March 2024 which has negatively impacted the prices in the markets, and spelt ruin for the growers.
“This ban (on exports) must be lifted… The government should not interfere in onion exports. Today’s agitation will open the eyes of the Centre to the farmers' plight and they will be compelled to revoke the curb on exports,” declared Pawar.
Dwelling on other agriculture related issues, the NCP supremo said that in November, there was heavy rain/hailstorms in Nashik which severely damaged the grape vineyards.
Nashik grapes are consumed all over the country and now Bangladesh has imposed a heavy duty on the grapes, again hitting the farmers here badly.
Similarly, Maharashtra ranks second in terms of sugar production in India and one of the by-products of sugarcane juice is ethanol, but last week, the Centre has banned the ethanol production from sugarcane juice, which has proved detrimental to the sugarcane cultivators.
“Decisions are never taken in the interests of the farmers… The government should read the message from today’s protest… Tomorrow, I will be going to Parliament in New Delhi and meet the concerned people,” said Pawar.
Earlier this afternoon, Pawar, along with several party leaders, joined the protests by thousands of local farmers as the police beefed up security at the venue.
For the past few months, the tillers have been agitating against the ban on onion exports imposed by the Centre till March 31, 2024, ostensibly to rein in the prices of the teary vegetable in the local markets.
Farmers in Nashik and other parts have been staging regular protests-agitations since the past few months with strikes in the APMCs demanding a roll-back of the export ban.
Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi’s allies Congress, NCP(SP) and Shiv Sena(UBT) leaders have said that the onion export ban has proved to be a double-whammy in the wake of the drought-like situation with uneven rain in monsoon, and recently the unseasonal rain/hailstorms that ravaged crops in winter.
This is the first time in four years that Pawar, a Rajya Sabha member, took part in a direct field agitation for a common public cause.
In November 2019, the veteran Maratha had plunged full-throated in the attempts to save the (then) newly-formed Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA), after the dawn swearing-in ceremony of Bharatiya Janata Party’s Devendra Fadnavis as CM and breakaway leader Ajit Pawar as Deputy CM, and the two-man regime tumbled in barely 80 hours.