Tens of thousands of farmers from India’s western state of Maharashtra reached the state capital of Mumbai on Monday to protest a lack of government support despite severe distress within the sector that employs the majority of the country’s workforce.
The farmers are scheduled to stage a protest outside the Assembly demanding fair remuneration, loan waiver and non- implementation of demands promised by the government. The protesting farmers are now at Azad Maidan and set to head for the state Assembly today.
However, Amitesh Kumar, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) on Monday said that no road would be closed due to the protest march by the All India Kisan Sabha’s farmers.
Mr Surjewala said the Congress fully stands in support of the farmers’ march to protest the apathy of the Centre and the state govenments.
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’ representative, Giriraj Mahajan said that almost 80 to 90 percent of the farmers’ demand will be fulfilled.
The farmers, many of whom come from tribal-dominated talukas, played tribal songs on the speakers to keep the spirits up.
Their demands include an unconditional waiver of loans as well as electricity bills; implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations, including an announcement of minimum support price for agriculture produce; and a pension scheme for farmers.
As the march entered Mumbai, the protesters were warmly welcomed by leaders of all Opposition parties.
One of the major demands being raised by the protesting farmers is to speed up the already delayed farm loan package of previous year. “The government is sensitive and positive towards their demands”, the chief minister said.
AIKS Maharashtra President Ashok Dhavale pointed out that the crisis in the farmlands is very severe with “over 400,000 farmers committing suicides in the past 25 years”. They also had ample support from Mumbaikars, so, they chose to march at midnight to prevent any inconvenience to the city people. “But the government itself is pauper, so what can it offer you?” Out of which only 450-500 are farmers, rest are tribals who are participating in the march for their demands. “On one side we are losing exceptionally fertile land under the Nagpur-Mumbai super expressway and on the other hand farmers are not getting enough benefits of the loan waiver”.
Senior Minister Girish Mahajan, who also marched around 3.30 am, told NDTV that the Maharashtra government has been in touch with the farmers ever since their march began. “If the ruling BJP tries to short-change them, then the farmers will not spare either Fadnavis or his party”, Nawale said.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray meets AIKS leaders.