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Maharashtra farmers’ rally enters Mumbai, to lay siege to Vidhan Bhavan

Led by the All India Kisan Sabha, farmers’ demands include a complete waiver on farm loans and fair prices for their produce.

mumbai Updated: Mar 11, 2018 23:42 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
Maharashtra farmers,farmers’ rally,Agrarian distress
Farmers of All Indian Kisan Sabha march from Nashik to Mumbai to gherao Vidhan Bhawan on March 12, demanding a loan waiver, in Mumbai on Sunday.(PTI Photo)

Over 35,000 farmers from across Maharashtra, who embarked on a ‘Long March’ from Nashik on March 6 to press for their various demands, arrived in Mumbai on Sunday.

Apart from Opposition parties, the Shiv Sena, a partner in the ruling BJP-led coalition, too has vocally supported the agitation.

The farmers, led by Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), are demanding, among other things, proper implementation of the Maharashtra government’s loan waiver scheme.

The protesters have covered around 180km on foot in six days.

The protesters will halt at the Somaiya ground in suburban Chunabhatti tonight, and set out for the Vidhan Bhavan in south Mumbai, where the Budget session is underway, on Monday, said leaders of the agitation.

“We will gherao (lay siege to) the Vidhan Bhavan tomorrow (Monday) to demand a complete loan waiver, fair price for farm produce, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, and compensation for hailstorm-affected farmers among other things,” Kisan Gujar, president of the state council of AIKS, said.

Read more | March to Mumbai: Maharashtra farmers brave injuries, heat for kids as Sena, MNS back them

“Today, our number is over 35,000. Over 20,000 farmers from other parts of the state will join us tomorrow,” he said, adding the farmers were also protesting against land acquisition for projects such as high-speed railway and super-highways.

“Though we have been approached by the government officials advising us not to stay near the Vidhan Bhavan for long, everything will depend on how the government deals with our demands,” Gujar said.

Senior BJP leader and finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will meet the protesters’ delegation, and blamed the “apathetic” approach of past governments for the farmers’ woes.

“Our government is committed to address all the grievances of farmers, which have accumulated due to the apathetic approach in the last several years...We are very sensitive towards farmers and two ministers (tribal development minister Vishnu Savara and Nashik’s guardian minister Girish Mahajan) have already been asked to look into their demands,” Mungantiwar told PTI.

Ajit Nawale of the AIKS, however, dismissed the overture. “The days of living on assurances have passed. Unless the government gives us something concrete, commits itself in writing, we will march towards the Vidhan Bhavan tomorrow,” he said.

Senior Shiv Sena leder and cabinet minister Eknath Shinde and Yuva Sena (Shiv Sena’s youth wing) chief Aditya Thackeray also greeted the protesters.

Thackeray said the Shiv Sena stood “shoulder to shoulder” with farmers in their struggle.

It was wrong to say that farmers were demanding loan waiver, as they are not criminals that they should need a ‘waiver’, Aditya said, adding “farmers are fighting for freedom from debt.”

Opposition Congress, NCP, Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and AAP, also extended their support.

First Published: Mar 11, 2018 23:32 IST