Shetkari Kamgar Sanghatna leader Raju Shetti. File.

Shetkari Kamgar Sanghatna leader Raju Shetti. File.
| Photo Credit: Emmanual Yogini

Hundreds of agitating farmers and activists of the Raju Shetti-led pro-farmer Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghtana (SSS) staged a blockade of the Pune-Bengaluru highway at Kolhapur on Thursday, demanding a higher fair and remunerative price (FRP) from sugarcane factory owners.

Mr. Shetti has demanded that sugar factory owners in the State’s ‘sugar belt’ districts (of Kolhapur, Satara and Sangli where the SSS wields influence) pay ₹100 per tonne over and above the FRP for the cane crushed in the last season, along with an additional ₹100 per tonne over and above the FRP price to be fixed this season.

While Maharashtra Minister Hasan Mushrif, an influential leader from Kolhapur, said that mill owners had agreed to pay ₹50 per tonne over and above the FRP from the cane crushed last season, Mr. Shetti and the SSS refused to budge from their programme.

According to authorities, SSS activists and farmers began holding up traffic after 11 a.m. on Thursday, with the blockading continuing for several hours throughout the day. Despite traffic diversions, the SSS protest threw commute off-kilter along the highway.

Mr. Shetti, a former two-time MP from Hatkanangale in Kolhapur, had already warned mill owners and the Maharashtra government of today’s action following the failure of talks between the SSS and the government on yesterday.

Initially, Mr. Shetti had demanded factory owners pay ₹400 per tonne extra over the government-declared FRP for cane sold to mills last season – a demanded rejected by mill owners.

Following this, Mr. Shetti had been prepared to climb down to ₹100 per tonne over and above the FRP, while stating that the mill owners must pay the amount in the wake of the SSS’ compromise.

While Mr. Shetti said he was willing to negotiate on the price, he accused factory owners as well as leaders from both the Opposition Maha Vikas Aghadi and the ruling Mahayuti of colluding with owners against farmers by denying them their rightful FRP.

A meeting chaired by State Cooperation Minister Dilip Walse Patil on Tuesday, which was attended by Mr. Shetti via videoconferencing, had come a cropper and failed to break the deadlock.

Mr. Shetti, who is planning to contest the 2024 elections independently, had earlier embarked on a foot march across the sugar belt to shore up his base among farmers.

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