Milk protests hit hills

Kalimpong, June 1: Milkmen in the hills today chose a novel way to prove their point.

Organised by the Himalayan Farmers’ Front this morning, a “positive protest” galvanised farmers of Jangbirtar and its surrounding areas into selling 3,200 litre of milk to the Himalayan Cooperative Milk Producers’ Union Limited (Himul) — double the quantity collected daily.

“The idea was to dispel the claim of the Himul authorities that the hills do not produce enough milk, forcing them to buy from the plains,” said Yusuf Simmick, adviser to the farmers’ front.

Members of the farmers’ body said their protest would prove that milkmen are forced to sell their produce elsewhere because of the pittance paid by Himul. The organisation has been demanding that Himul pay a minimum of Rs 12 for a litre of milk as against the Rs 6 that it presently pays the producers.

The farmers’ front also organised a daylong programme to celebrate Goala Samman Diwas at Upper Dalapchand, a little distance from Kalimpong. The programme focussed on saving Himul though the milk producers have been agitating for some time against the authorities.

The speakers at the programme made it very clear that their struggle was not against Himul and that “their success lay in the success of the cooperative”.

Speaking on the occasion, Wangchuh Palzer, vice-chairman of Himul, said efforts were on to give a better price to the producers, without going into the specifics. He also said pruning staff-strength was among the many steps needed to revive Himul.

In the second half of the programme, members of various milk producers’ bodies presented cultural items. About 500 milkmen from different areas attended the event.

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