Ahmednagar, February 8: They may not have Anna Hazare's charisma, but Puntamba's Jadhav girls are high on resolve. Just a day before Anna Hazare ended his high-profile week-long fast in Ralegan Siddhi on Tuesday, Nikita, Shubhangi and Poonam launched their own indefinite hunger strike to press for farmers' demands in Puntamba village here.
Hailing from farming families -- Nikita Jadhav (20), Shubhangi Jadhav and Poonam Jadhav (both 19) -- are friends. While Nikita is a law student in Pune, Shubhangi and Poonam are studying science in Ahmednagar.
"On February 3, we held a day-long token fast. From February 4, we are on an indefinite hunger strike till the farmers' demands are conceded," a determined Nikita told IANS. Anna Hazare Ends Hunger Strike After Devendra Fadnavis Assures Appointment of Lokpal Soon.
She said the demands include full waiver of all farm loans, minimum support price for farm produce, pension for all farmers above 60 years of age, free power for agricultural purposes, GST waiver on all farm equipment and machinery, raising procurement prices of milk which are now lower than soft drinks available in the market.
The trio's fast has garnered widespread support with Puntamba observing a voluntary shutdown on Wednesday, schools and villagers taking out protest marches and neighbouring villages expressing solidarity.
On Thursday, the villagers launched a begging drive, collected Rs 460 and sent it to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and now similar drives are being organised in Nashik and Aurangabad districts.
A rattled district administration swung into action on Friday and shifted Shubhangi to a hospital claiming her condition had deteriorated.
"She spoke to us from the hospital and said she is being virtually held captive there though her condition is okay," said Nikita, even as officials built up 'pressure' through relatives and friends to make the Jadhav trio call off their strike.
On Friday afternoon, Minister of State for Home Ram Shinde visited the fasting girls, but left without any settlement as he had "no concrete proposals.
Incidentally, Friday was also the day when 25 years ago activist Kishore Tiwari formally raised the Maharashtra farmers' issues and suicides in the Yavatmal district.
To mark the occasion, a dozen odd girls -- all daughters of farmers -- also met the Jadhavs requesting them to join their protest. Both the Congress and the Shiv Sena have expressed their support for the girls, and Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray is also likely to visit them in a day or two.
Nobody from Anna Hazare's side has contacted or met them so far, though they are in the same district, barely two hours away.
"We have demanded that unless all our demands are conceded, we shall continue with our agitation since the farmers have been deprived of their rights for too long," a grim Nikita said.