Lakhs of distressed farmers in Vidarbha region have threatened to press the None Of The Above (NOTA) button on voting machines next month if they are not disbursed aid for farm losses immediately, an activist said here Saturday.
A large meeting of farmers and their representatives from different parts of Vidarbha passed a resolution Saturday demanding that aid and relief packages be released by April 10, failing which they would resort to NOTA in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections.
Raising the slogan - "No Aid, No Vote", the farmers also demanded an end to ongoing recovery of debts by the banks and concessions in electricity and water bills.
"Thousands of farmers in the region have suffered double losses -- first in August 2013 when there were devastating floods...followed by the unseasonal heavy rain and hailstorm during the past fortnight," Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti chief Kishore Tiwari told IANS.
"Shockingly, even the aid of Rs.3,000 crores promised last year has yet to reach the farmers. We wonder when the assurances by the government for the March 2014 destruction will actually be fulfilled," he added.
The gathering of around 1,200 at Bhimkund village in Yavatmal was organised to discuss and highlight the plight of the farmers even as all political parties are busy campaigning.
To draw the attention of the authorities, the gathering started with a 'puja' performed on garlanded photos of Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar.
They prayed aloud to the almighty "to give them sense" and urgently guide them to help the farming community of the state reeling under an agrarian crisis since the past ten years.
"In their lust for votes, all political parties across the spectrum have totally ignored the plight of half a million farmers. Farmers have been forced to flee their barren villages and take refuge in the forest with the tribals," said women farmers' leader Kiran Kolvate.
Most parts of Vidarbha, considered among the worst-hit in the recent rains and hailstorms, are to vote April 10 in the first of the three-phased elections in Maharashtra.