Hundreds of debt-ridden farmers, widows and labourers Thursday observed a 'black day' by staging a day-long hunger strike outside government offices here on the occasion of Maharashtra Day.
Pro-Vidarbha groups also launched agitations demanding a separate state, activists said. Maharashtra Day marks the formation of the state out of the erstwhile Bombay State in 1960.
Waving banners, posters and raising slogans, farmers and tribals squatted outside the offices of the sub-divisional headquarters, 845 km east of Mumbai. "We are compelled to hold this dharna to voice our anger at the continued indifference of the state government towards rampant starvation and misery in the entire Vidarbha region, which has been recently ravaged by hailstorms," Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti president Kishore Tiwari told IANS.
In Akola, Nagpur and Yavatmal, many groups staged demonstrations to demand a separate state to be carved out of Maharashtra on the lines of Telangana. At a couple of places, activists also raised a separate 'Vidarbha flag', but were rounded up by security personnel.
Farmers also staged protests in Aurangabad in the Marathwada region, demanding adequate compensation following the recent hailstorms in the region. Tiwari said the government's official survey identified over four million farmers deprived of food and health care, but the state's apathy has driven more than 12,000 farmers to commit suicide in the past eight years. He demanded immediate and adequate compensation to farmers for the recent huge crop losses, hike in the minimum support price of cotton to Rs.6,500 per quintal, food and health security as well as family pension for the farmers' widows.