Protests for a higher price for sugarcane have been called off for a day, on Friday, at the request of Shiv Sena executive president Uddhav Thackeray over apprehensions about Sena supremo Bal Thackeray’s health.

On Thursday, three farmers’ organisations came together for the protests in the western Maharashtra districts of Satara, Sangli and Kolhapur.

On Monday two protesting farmers lost their lives in Satara and Kolhapur districts. Swabhiman Shetkari Sanghatana leader Raju Shetty, who was arrested, told reporters: “Several clashes were reported between the police and protestors. The protest was not handled properly by the government. Farmers and protesters should remain patient. The future course will be decided after I am released.”

Raghunath Dada Patil-led Shetkari Sanghatana which joined the protest on Thursday announced that the farmers had called off the bandh for a day in response to Mr. Thackeray’s request.

The farmers’ organisations are demanding a higher first advance than the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) announced by the government. The Shetkari Sanghatna and the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna (SSS) are demanding Rs. 4,500 per tonne of sugarcane, including Rs. 3,000 as cost of production in the first instalment, which the owners of the co-operative sugarcane factories have not agreed to.

The FRP per tonne, as announced by the government, is Rs. 1,750 for 9.5 per cent recovery and Rs. 179 for every additional 1 per cent recovery, working out to an average of Rs. 2,150 per tonne.

As the Maharashtra government has not yet taken the lead to sort out the cane price issue, the Shetakari Sanghatana activists have resorted to peaceful demonstrations in various areas in the southern Maharashtra region. All sugar mills in the region are closed and surrounded with police cordons.

‘Hold talks’

Kolhapur correspondent reports:

The three farmers’ organisations have come together to pursue the demand and not to allow crushing at the sugar mills unless their demand for the first instalment is heeded.

Asked about the situation, Shetakari Sanghatana leader Radhanathdada Patil said the Chief Minister should take the initiative to hold discussions with the three organisations.