Mumbai: Thousands of farmers have left from various parts of Maharashtra to participate in a rally at the Azad Maidan in Mumbai on Monday against the Centre's three new farm laws.
Police have stepped up security at the venue in south Mumbai and personnel of the State Reserve Police Force (SRPF) have also been deployed there. Drones will also be used to keep an eye on the event, a police official said.
The All India Kisan Sabha's (AIKS) Maharashtra unit in a statement said around 15,000 farmers set out for the state capital from Nashik on Saturday in several tempos and other vehicles.
On Monday, NCP chief Sharad Pawar and some other prominent leaders of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) in the state will address the rally, the release said.
The state Congress unit, which is an ally of the MVA, has already extended its support to the protest.
Farmers from various places gathered in Nashik and left from there on Saturday. Many peasants also joined them on the way, the AIKS said.
They halted at Ghatandevi near Igatpuri hill town for overnight stay.
On Sunday morning, a number of peasants marched down the Kasara Ghat to head for Mumbai, while many left in vehicles.
"The rally is being held to support and expand the two-month-long farmers' struggle in Delhi for a repeal of the three farm laws and for a central law to guarantee a remunerative Minimum Support Price (MSP) and procurement all over the country," the statement said.
The Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a pro-farmer body, has given a nationwide call for a struggle from January 23 to 26, including rallies to Raj Bhavans (governor houses) in states.
Accordingly, over 100 organisations came together and formed the Samyukta Shetkari Kamgar Morcha (SSKM), Maharashtra, in a meeting held in Mumbai on January 12.
The SSKM has called for a joint sit-in at the Azad Maidan here from January 24 to 26.
On January 25, there will be a public meeting at 11 am, the release said.
Besides NCP chief Pawar, state Congress president and revenue minister Balasaheb Thorat, and Shiv Sena leader and state tourism minister Aaditya Thackeray will also address the rally, it said.
Later, the protesters will march to the Raj Bhavan and submit a memorandum to Governor B S Koshyari.
The main demands of the protesters include repeal of the three "anti-farmer" laws, and a central law guaranteeing remunerative MSP and procurement, the release said.
The protesters have also decided to hoist the national flag at the Azad Maidan on the occasion of the Republic day on January 26, and take a pledge to make the struggle of peasants and workers successful, it added.
Meanwhile, security has been beefed up at the venue ahead of the rally, a police official said.
Apart from personnel of the Mumbai Police, nine platoons of the SRPF are being deployed at the Azad Maidan, he said, adding that drones will also be used.
Additional police force, including 100 officers and 500 constables, will also be deployed at the venue, he added.
Enacted in September last year, the three laws have been projected by the Centre as major reforms in the agriculture sector that will remove middlemen and allow farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.
However, the protesting farmers have expressed their apprehension that the new laws would pave the way for eliminating the safety cushion of MSP and do away with the 'mandi' (wholesale market) system, leaving them at the mercy of big corporates.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been camping at several border points of Delhi, demanding a repeal of the three farm laws.
Multiple rounds of talks between the government and farmer unions have failed to break the impasse so far, while the Supreme Court has appointed a panel for resolution of the issue.