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Hazare backs Maharashtra farmers, 'ready to mediate'

Hazare backs Maharashtra farmers, ready to mediate
Social activist Anna Hazare on Friday extended his support to the agitating farmers in Maharashtra and expressed his desire to mediate between the state government and the agriculturists if asked to.

He also expressed hope that the stir be conducted in a peaceful manner.

"I extend my support to farmers' agitation and the cause behind it. It is better if they resort to a peaceful way of protest," Hazare told reporters.

The Gandhian's appeal for peaceful protest came against the backdrop of farmers' agitation turning violent in some parts of the state with incidents of stone pelting and vandalising of vehicles carrying milk and vegetables to Mumbai being reported on Wednesday night.

Appealing to farmers to shun violence, Hazare said he was ready to join discussions between the farmers' leaders and Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis if he was asked to.

Yesterday, Fadnavis expressed willingness to hold talks with the agitating farmers.

"'Satyagraha' is a birthright of all. The government should not use police force when there is a peaceful agitation," he said.

The septuagenarian alleged that farmers have resorted to protests due to "anti-farmer" policies of the government.

"Farmers must get an assurance on price of their agricultural produce based on expenses incurred by them on production. This demand has always been neglected by all the past governments," the anti-graft crusader said. A non-political movement of farmers is necessary to pressurise the whole political system to meet the demands of farmers, he said. "If farmers' leaders wish so, I am ready to initiate a dialogue with farmers and the government," Hazare said.

However, farmers in Nashik district hit back at Hazare over his appeal for peaceful protests.

Speaking to a regional television channel, Ramesh Chougule, a farmer from Nashik said, "When farmers were committing suicides, Anna never uttered a word for the families of those farmers. "Therefore, now when they are protesting for their rights, he should not interfere. What is wrong in asking for our rights of getting better returns for our produce." Ravindra Bhasme, another farmer from Satana tehsil in Nashik said, "I am a part of farmers' group and we produce leafy vegetables and fruit vegetables to supply to Mumbai. "We have decided not to harvest it and support the strike. We will not send our vegetables to Mumbai so that the government will feel the heat." He also said that the social activist had been selective when it came to farmers' issues. "Hazare should have been with us from the beginning," he added.

Farmers from many parts of the state including Nashik, Pune and Ahmednagar districts have joined the stir, which entered the second day today.

Modi has time to meet Priyanka Chopra but not farmers: Cong

Amid the ongoing agitation of farmers in Maharashtra, Congress today hit out at Prime Minister Narendra Modi, saying he could take time out of his schedule to meet Bollywood actor Priyanka Chopra, but had no time to meet farmers. "It is unfortunate that Modi ji has time to meet Priyanka Chopra, but not our farmers. His Chief Minister in Maharashtra Devendra Fadnavis ji is behaving like Yamraj (god of death)," Maharashtra Pradesh Congress Committee secretary Shehzad Poonawalla in a statement issued here.

"Congress supports the demands of the farmers. If loan waiver can be given in UP why not in Maharashtra?" he said.

On May 30, Modi had taken some time out of his hectic schedule of bilateral talks and meetings in Berlin to meet actor Priyanka Chopra.

"In Maharashtra, out of a total 1.36 crore farmers, 31 lakh farmers with a cumulative debt of Rs 30,500 crore are not eligible for bank loans," he said.
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