Maharashtra farmers join hands, slam Sharad Pawar

Sharad Pawar

Maharashtra's farmers demanding a higher price for their sugarcane crop lashed out at union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar Wednesday for what they said were his casteist remarks as factions of the powerful Shetkari Sanghatna decided to join hands and step up their campaign to pressure the state government.

The decision by the three factions of the farmers' group to forge unity came as fresh violence erupted in pockets of western Maharashtra, two days after two farmers were killed in violence when the protests began on Monday. The farmers are demanding at least Rs 3,000 per tonne as a first installment payment while sugar factories in the region have decided to pay them Rs 2,300 per tonne.

The farmers said Pawar had further fanned the protests by his comments against Raju Shetty, independent MP from Hatkanangale and leader of the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna.

Speaking at the inauguration of a village secretariat in Sangvi village in Baramati taluka on Monday, Pawar had reportedly said that Shetty was determined to shut down sugar factories in Pune district while ensuring sugar factories belonging to his community work at full capacity in his constituency that spans the two districts of Kolhapur and Sangli.

"Who is this Raju Shetty? Where has he come from?

We need to find out...He is ensuring that sugar factories belonging to his community remain functional and at the same time he is trying to close down sugar factories of other communities. Closing down shops of others while keeping his own shops open...this is his way of protest," Pawar reportedly said.

Referring to the Warna sugar factory, Pawar reportedly said "this sugar unit was running at full capacity and it is in Shetty's constituency. If you find out which community Shetty and the sugar factory belong to you will understand the truth."

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