Protests by sugarcane growers in western Maharashtra [ Images ], demanding better price for their produce, intensified on Wednesday with agitators torching a police jeep in the sugar belt of Kolhapur, setting up road blockades and pelting stones.
In Sangli district, the police retaliated by firing in the air.
A youth, identified as Praveen Patil, was reportedly injured at Ashta village when farmers tried to set ablaze a gas tanker.
Though police denied that Patil was injured in firing, sources at the local hospital said the youth received a bullet injury in his leg.
"Farmers first damaged a milk tanker coming from Pune. They were joined by another group; they then intercepted a gas tanker and beat up the driver. They were trying to set on fire the tanker when police lathicharged them. As they refused to budge, we opened fire in air to disperse them," Inspector Nalawade of Ashta police station said.
Incidents of stone pelting were reported from the town and Dindanerli village in neighbouring Kolhapur district as well.
In Ashta, farmers gheraoed a police station and pelted stones demanding the release of four of their comrades, allegedly arrested on Wednesday in connection with the protests. However, police denied the reports of arrests and said the situation is under control.
In Kolhapur, peasants and followers of Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana torched a police jeep when they tried to remove the road blockades put up by farmers on Kolhapur-Gargoti Road in the morning.
Farmers have been protesting for the last few days against refusal of cooperative sugar factories in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur districts of western Maharashtra to give Rs 3,000 per ton as first advance on sugarcane purchase this season. Factories have agreed to pay Rs 2,300 per ton.
The agitation has been spearheaded by Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna leader Raju Shetty, who has been arrested.