Maharashtra farmers’ protest: The men behind the Long March
As farmers reach Mumbai after a six-day-long march from Nashik and wait at Azad Maidan for a meeting with Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis and other ministers, here’s a look at the three key farmer leaders behind this march:
Jiva Pandu Gavit, 68
CPI (M) leader and Kalwan MLA
Seven-time MLA from Kalwan in Nashik, Jiva Pandu Gavit is a CPI(M) leader and the only legislator to represent leftist parties in Maharashtra’s Legislative Assembly. Gavit, who is from the tribal community, prefers to keep a low profile and is the brain behind the long march. He is also the main reason so many tribals have joined in the agitation — they are fighting for the implementation of the Forest Rights Act,2006, that promised them repossession of land that they had been tilling for generations and had been taken over by the forest department.
President, Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (ABKS)
Dhawale, who was recently elected to lead ABKS, the peasants’ body represented by undivided communist parties, is a staunch follower of social activist Godavari Parulekar. Dhawale has been an active social worker in Thane and Palghar districts since 1993 and has been fighting for various agricultural issues, including the implementation of the Forest Rights Act and the recommendations made by Swaminathan Commission. He has also opposed land acquisition for the Special Economic Zone in Raigad about a decade ago, and is now protesting the acquisition of land for the bullet train and Mumbai-Nagpur Expressway projects.
State secretary of ABKS
In June 2017, Nawale was the driving force behind the farmers’ agitation that eventually led the chief minister to announce a farm loan waiver scheme. Then, farmers had sought complete loan waiver and an assured minimum support price for crops that is 1.5 times the cost of production, besides implementation of the Swaminathan Commission report. The farmers had threatened to go on strike, cutting of supplies of vegetables and fruits to cities. After negotiations, Nawale was made a member of the government-formed steering committee, to chalk out the structure for the loan waiver. He was, however, not convinced with the framework of the scheme and since then has been directing protests at district and taluka levels.