10,000 Farmers On A ‘Long March’ To MumbaiMar 15, 2023 | Pratirodh Bureau
A delegation of Maharashtra farmers was scheduled to hold talks with the Maharashtra government in Mumbai today, March 15, as they were expected to arrive in the state capital after a 175 km ‘long march’. The farmers’ stir is spearheaded by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and comprises over 10,000 peasants walking in the blistering heat with banners, placards, posters and raising slogans enroute.
On Monday, more than 10,000 farmers in Maharashtra began a long march from Nashik to Mumbai. They want changes in the agriculture sector. They started the protest because their crops were damaged by rain that came when it wasn’t supposed to.
They also wanted a fair price for their crops, no more farm loans, no more electricity bills, and power for 12 hours a day. One of the most important things they wanted was for the Forest Rights Act of 2006 to be put into place and for them to own the forest land they are farming.
The marching farmers were enthusiastically welcomed in various villages by the locals, offered food and water, and people expressed their support to the cause as they walked past.
Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis were slated to meet the farmers’ leaders on Tuesday, but the meeting was put off owing to the strike launched by state government employees demanding a return to the Old Pension Scheme (OPS).
“We were informed that the meeting has been cancelled, but no reasons were given… Our march continues as usual,” AIKS Maharashtra General Secretary Dr Ajit Nawale told the media.
Slamming Shinde’s offer of giving an ex-gratia of Rs 300/quintal for onion growers, he said it was too meagre and the amount should be hiked to at least Rs 600/quintal, failing which the agitation would intensify.
“Unless the government talks to us, we may be compelled to block the Mumbai-Gujarat Highway, only then they will listen,” Nawale said.
Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar and other Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) leaders have raised the matter in the Assembly and have rooted for the distressed farmers’ cause.
Congress state President Nana Patole, NCP state President Jayant Patil, Shiv Sena-UBT leaders like Bhaskar Jadhav and others have demanded that the government should give between Rs 500 and Rs 700/quintal to the farmers reeling under a crisis owing to fallen prices.
From the government side, Nashik Guardian Minister Dada Bhuse said that at the Wednesday meeting, the CM and Deputy CM as well as concerned department secretaries were slated to be present to discuss the issues and resolve the farmers’ problems.
He expressed confidence that all the positive demands would be heard out and the needful would be done for the farmers.
On Sunday, the AIKS released its 17-point charter of demands which includes compensation for onion growers and MSP of Rs 2000/quintal from the next season, better prices for other crops like cotton, soybean, tur, green gram, milk, and related issues of ASHA workers, etc.
This is the third “long march” by farmers in the past five years — the first one was in 2018, later in 2019, and again this year.