Protests staged in Mumbai to oppose Center’s farm laws and express solidarity with farmers
Over 35 social, political, farmer organisations, trade and labour unions on Tuesday organised a peaceful protest at the suburban collector’s office in Bandra, to show solidarity with farmers protesting in Delhi for the past three weeks. Tuesday’s protests, called Lok Sangharsha Morcha, were directed at corporate conglomerates, alleging the Central government has passed the three farm laws for the benefit of these corporates.
Political outfits such as the Peasants and Workers Party (PWP) and Prahar Janshakti Party also participated in the protests, with leaders including member of legislative Council (MLC) Jayant Patil and former member of Parliament (MP) Raju Shetti from Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatna leading the protests, along with members from Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) Maharashtra and Narmada Bachao Andolan.
Over 5,000 people are estimated to be present at the protests, according to the organisers and police estimates. Representatives of farmers from Punjab and Haryana were also present at the protest.
The march commenced from the suburban collector’s office at Bandra at 3pm on Tuesday, preceded by a public meeting.
The massive farmers’ protest in Delhi was set off by three controversial laws pushed through Parliament by the government in September. These allow agri-businesses to trade with minimal regulation, permit traders to stockpile large quantities of food commodities for economies of scale, and lay down new contract farming rules. Farmers say the new rules favour big corporations to whom they will lose business, gut the mandi system and gradually end the regime of minimum support prices (MSP) that acts as a protective net for cultivators.
“We organised Tuesday’s protests to show solidarity with farmers protesting in Delhi. This issue not only affects Delhi’s farmers but farmers all across the country. The government is not keen to even initiate dialogue with protesting farmers, so we are now channelling our protests to the root of the issue – the corporates who will benefit from the three laws,” said MP Shetti.
Farmers and labourers from various parts of Maharashtra – Dhule, Nashik, Parbhani, Ahmednagar, Pune, Satara, Latur, Aurangabad, Thane, and Palghar – were present for the protest. “It is very difficult to reach Mumbai as trains are not working. These farmers have organised their own vehicles and busses to reach Mumbai for the protests,” Shetty added.
Trade unions have also decided to issue a notice to corporate firms. On December 29, press conferences will be held at six industrial centres in Maharashtra – Nagpur, Pune, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Mumbai, and Nashik – to urge corporates to relay the farmers’ demands to the government.
Vivek Montero, Maharashtra secretary of CITU, said, “Since the Prime Minister (PM) listens to corporate monopolies, we believe that if the request goes from them to the PM, he is likely to listen to the demands. These three laws were passed to facilitate businesses of large corporates looking to expand into the agriculture sector.”
Other farmers from Maharashtra-led by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which started the vehicle march to Delhi from Nashik on Monday afternoon, were on Tuesday joined by leaders from all political parties including the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), the Shiv Sena, the Samajwadi Party, the Janata Dal (Secular), the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Ashok Dhawale, president of AIKS said, “On Tuesday, all parties except the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) joined us at Dhule, Malegaon and Shirpur. Local leaders from these parties marched with the farmers.”
The farmers entered Madhya Pradesh on Wednesday morning and will reach the Rajasthan-Haryana border on December 24, after covering a distance of 1,266km by road.