Maharashtra farmers’ march: They marched, they spoke, they conquered
They till land their forefathers cultivated, but owned by the state’s forest department. They barely earn enough money to make ends meet.Updated: Mar 13, 2018 07:26 IST
Thousands of angry farmers braved sore feet, heat stroke, cold nights and home sickness to march all the way from Nashik, Ahmednagar, Satara and some other parts of the state to Mumbai.
It’s been a week since these men and women left their homes wearing red caps. They were worried, tired, faced uncertainty and were in physical discomfort every step of the way. And when their week-long journey finally halted at Azad Maidan on Monday, they had torn footwear, soiled clothes and tanned faces.
Municipal doctors attending to the farmers said most of them had blisters on the soles of their feet, migraines from walking in the heat and were dehydrated.
Shanta Pawar, 60, a farmer from Nashik, said, “Even though the pain in my legs from the long walk is unbearable, I am okay. The government has met our demands and my children can have a secure future.”
Pawar is the sole bread winner of her family. She tills about five acres of land in Surgana tehsil in Nashik to feed two sons and a daughter. But it is not her land. She said, “The land belongs to the forest government. I want it in my name. I have been tilling it for so many decades now. I am scared they will come one day and stake their claim and we will have nothing left.”
Most of the farmers who came to Mumbai have the same story to tell. They till land their forefathers cultivated, but owned by the state’s forest department. They barely earn enough money to make ends meet.
A few years ago, as the government started taking possession of this land, many of these farmers were stopped by the forest department from cultivating it. They feel ownership of the land, a monthly pension from the state government and 1.5 times the production cost as the minimum support price (MSP) will bring security to their life.
Some farmers also protested against land-grabbing cases. Shivaji Mohite, who travelled to Mumbai from Satara, lost his land to a private company that set up windmills in his village in 2007. Mohite claims the company bought more than five acres of land each from all the families in his village, but made contracts for sale of less than an acre of land.
It also cheated about 27 farmers by paying off half the decided amount, and did no paperwork for it, he claims.
Mohite hopes the government will intervene and resolve his issue. Sitaram Pawar, secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, said, “These farmers have barely got any rest. They halt whenever night falls and begin walking in the morning.
“This is in exchange for hardly much expectation from the government. We want ownership of all land tilled by the farmers, whether it is with the state, forest, temple trusts or private corporates.”