Did Maharashtra govt take farmers’ march ‘lightly’?

AIKS leaders said the government took the “march of the agitated farmers lightly”.

mumbai Updated: Mar 13, 2018 01:48 IST
Swapnil Rawal
Swapnil Rawal
Hindustan Times
Maharashtra news,politics,Maharashtra government
Farmers during their protest march at Azad Maidan in Mumbai on Monday.(Pratik Chorge/HT Photo)

As Azad Maidan ground in south Mumbai turned into a sea of red when thousands of farmers converged there after walking 180 kilometres, the CPI-M affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) which secured most of the farmers’ demands, felt the government had initially taken the ‘long march’ lightly.

However, the show of strength of the farmers rattled the Devendra Fadnavis-government as it entered the outskirts of Mumbai on Sunday night, AIKS leaders, who spearheaded the ‘long march’, said.

AIKS leaders said the government took the “march of the agitated farmers lightly”. Ajit Nawale, secretary of AIKS and Jiva Pandu Gavit, CPI (M) MLA said the government’s initial response to the march was to “ignore it”.

“The government did not think the farmers would march in such large numbers. They ignored it until a picture of these farmers coming down from Kasara Ghat went viral on social media. That is when they sat up and took note of it,” Nawale said after they got a written assurance from the government on their demands.

Under pressure from the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) and ally Shiv Sena which supported the march, chief minister Fadnavis told the legislative assembly on Monday that the government had attempted to persuade the farmers to not take out a march but they were firm. He added that state water resources minister and guardian minister of Nashik, Girish Mahajan had met the farmers ahead of the long march. Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and state revenue minister, Chandrakant Patil also told the legislative council that Mahajan had met the AIKS leaders.

Gavit, however, denied that Mahajan met them ahead of the march. “Girish Mahajan met me on Friday and took me to the CM. I told the CM that it was too late as the march had already begun and it was on its way to Mumbai. There was no question of calling it off at that point,” he said. “Though the CM has been claiming that the government spoke to us ahead of the march, it was a casual attempt by Mahajan. There was no firm assurance by the government at that point of time,” he said.

Nawale added that the apathy of the government was clear in the way it ignored them between the day the march commenced from Nashik (March 6) and March 9, when Mahajan met Gavit.

“Our first interaction with the government was on last Friday. Till then the government did not bother to get in touch with us,” Nawale said. The Opposition slammed the government for its poor handling of the situation and said it should have at least met the farmers halfway.

Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar said if the government had held a discussion with the farmers in Nashik, they would not have been forced to march to Mumbai. “This march has the capacity to shake the foundations of the government,” said NCP legislator Sunil Tatkare, in the legislative council.

First Published: Mar 13, 2018 01:47 IST