Mumbai: After covering 180-kilometres nearly 12000 farmers carrying red flags converged in Azad Maidan around 5 am on Monday to press for their demands. The march was called by Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (ABKS) affiliated with the CPI(M), began on March 6 from the CBS Chowk in Nashik.
Farmers, some of whom are walking barefoot in the scorching sun, completed their last lap overnight so that office-goers and students appearing for board examinations on Monday were not inconvenienced.
The farmers reached Thane toll Naka Saturday and, following a night-halt, marched towards Sion on Sunday. After resting for nearly three hours at the KJ Somaiya Ground, they left for Mumbai’s Azad Maidan at 1 am.
The farmers had planned to gherao the Maharashtra state assembly demanding complete loan waiver, fair pay and transfer of Adivasi land to farmers who have been tilling it for years. They also want to implement the Swaminathan Committee report, which says farmers should be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of production and the Minimum Support Price should be fixed keeping this in mind.
Ajit Nawale, state president of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha said there is no question of compromise and it is not a political issue. “They have given us a time of 12 noon, and we will be at Vidhan Sabha at 12. If they try any tricks on us, we will start a hunger strike here at Azad Maidan. If anyone dies during that strike, it is Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ fault,” added Nawale.
Nawale further added the main demands include a total farm loan waiver, implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations, transfer of forest land to those who have been tilling it for years and appropriate minimum support prices.
The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leaders reached the Assembly at 1 pm to voice the demands of the protestors. The farmers were earlier scheduled to meet around noon to voice their demand but the meeting has been postponed for later in the day owing to the ongoing Assembly session.
In November last year, the state government announced a farm loan waiver, terming it the “biggest loan waiver in Maharashtra’s history”. Last month, state Governor Vidyasagar Rao told the state legislature that the government has transferred over Rs 12,000 crore into bank accounts of 31 lakh farmers.
However, the relief is yet to reach the farmers which led them to agitate once again. Moreover, they are also protesting against the state government’s land acquisition projects such as high speed rail like bullet train.