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Month after Maharashtra protest, farmers to hit streets over bullet train land acquisition

The bullet train corridor will originate at Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai and go through Thane and Palghar districts. Farmers in both the districts are opposing acquisition of land.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2018 23:46 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Farmer Protest,Maharashtra Long March,Kisan Sabha
Farmers shout slogans during a rally at the end of their six-day-long march on foot, in Mumbai, on March 12. (AP Photo)

A month after they organised the ‘Long March’ in Mumbai, farmer bodies led by All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) will stage a series of protests including one against the acquisition of land for the bullet train project in the state, highlighting the fragility of the agreement arrived at between farmers and the Maharashtra government in March.

Ashok Dhawale, who shot to fame for organising the farmer’s march from Nasik to Mumbai, said, “We want to rope in at least 50,000 people, including a large number of tribals, on May 3 in Palghar (to protest) against land acquisition for the bullet train project,” dubbing it as “elitist”.

India’s first bullet train, to be built with a loan from Japan, will run between Mumbai and Ahmedabad and its construction is expected to be completed by 2022. In Maharashtra, the high speed train corridor will originate at Bandra Kurla Complex in Mumbai and go through Thane and Palghar districts. Farmers in both the districts are opposing acquisition of land for the project.

According to Dhawale, the authorities are serving notices for acquisition to local farmers. “The move violates the understanding we had with the state government. Large tracks of land will be acquired in the blocks of Palghar, Dahanu and Talasari.”

In March, nearly 40,000 farmers marched from Nashik to Mumbai and got most of their demands accepted by the Devendra Fadnavis government. The farmers, led by the Kisan Sabha, began their march on March 6; the 180 km march culminated in Mumbai on March 11.

The farmers demanded transfer of forest land they have been tilling for long, proper implementation of the Maharashtra government’s loan waiver scheme, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations, including an announcement of minimum support price for agriculture produce, and monetary aid of Rs 40,000 per acre for crop damage on account of hailstorms and unseasonal rain.

The next round of protests indicates that the left-leaning Kisan Sabha wants to launch protests on a wide range of issues.

Last year, a farmers’ agitation rocked Madhya Pradesh, another BJP-ruled state, over non-payment of minimum support prices.

Across the country, farmers, hit by either extreme weather or poor market prices, have been protesting over the past year or more, seeking better returns for produce and waiver of loans. Several states have accepted their demands and launched large-scale loan waiver programmes.

The Palghar rally is unlikely to mark the end of farmer protests in Maharashtra. It is likely to be followed by a week-long agitation across the state over the drastic fall in the milk prices (in several parts of Maharashtra, dairy is another source of income for farmers in addition to agriculture and it often works as a cushion if they do not get enough income due from farming). “The leaders want to sell milk for free in front of collectors’ offices and BJP leaders’ homes,” said Hannan Mollah, general secretary, AIKS.

And on June 1, farmers will protest before the offices of collectors in all districts seeking expansion of the scope of loan waiver. “The state has agreed to give loan waiver for the period between 2001 and 2009. We want more farmers to be included from the remaining period,” he said.

To strengthen its network, the AIKS has formed All India Kisan Sangharsh coordination committee, a body of 192 organisations.

State revenue minister Chandrakant Patil insisted that the protests against projects are happening due to lack of knowledge.

“We have seen protests in the case of Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway, but with better compensation, the farmers have come forward to give their land. We are sure we can engage with them (the Palghar farmers) and find a solution if they are protesting,” he said, adding such protests are organised for political mileage.

The BJP government in Maharashtra has been battling discontent among the farmers. Though it’s implementing a Rs 34,000-crore waiver, complaints have been raised that a significant number of farmers have been excluded.

First Published: Apr 30, 2018 22:53 IST