Western Maharashtra limps back to normal

Only sporadic protests reported, say Sangli police

The situation in Western Maharashtra returned to normal on Thursday though all three farmers' unions protesting for higher crop prices had decided to intensify their agitation.

In Sangli district where a farmer was killed in police firing on Monday after the agitation had turned violent, police said, the situation was normal with a only a few "sporadic protests" reported in the morning.

Sangli Superintendent of Police Dilip Sawant told The Indian Express: "There were some sporadic protests on internal routes but all highways remained clear throughout the day. Though the transport of the sugarcane is still affected, that of milk and other commodities has become normal. State transport buses have finally started plying."

Leaders of farmers' unions claimed that their men continued to block the transport of sugarcane in many places in Kolhapur, Solapur, Satara and Sangli districts.

"Sugarcane is not reaching the mills in these places and we will not allow its transport till our demands are met. I spoke to Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan yesterday and asked him to keep the mills closed for a week. I also requested him to withdraw police from these areas," said Raghunath Patil, president of the Shetkari Sanghatna (Raghunath Patil faction).

Dashrath Sawant, state president of Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna (SSS), demanded immediate release of SSS president Raju Shetty.

"In the beginning of our agitation, the state government ignored our demands saying the issue was to be resolved between the farmers

and the sugar factories. When we started agitating in front of a sugar mill controlled by Cooperatives Minister Harshavardhan Patil, the government unnecessarily intervened and used force. This is the reason we decided against applying for Shetty's bail. The police should release him immediately. That would be the first step towards negotiations," said Sawant.

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