More than 30,000 farmers across Maharashtra are marching towards Mumbai to protest against the state assembly. They will protest against government’s response to the distress farm sector. The long march of farmers has been called by Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (ABKS), which is affiliated to CPI (M). Protesting farmers are likely to reach Maharashtra capital Mumbai on Sunday. The farmers had reached Bhatsa river in Thane district on Friday.
About 5,000 people from Palghar district also joined the march. They had started their march on Tuesday from CBS Chowk in Nashik. It is the same location where over one lakh farmers gathered for two days in March 2016. Farmers are covering around 35 kilometres almost daily.
Among key demands of the farmers are the transfer of forest land to tillers, complete farm loan waiver, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre to farmers affected by hailstorm and pink bollworm, and stop sharing state’s water with Gujarat. A large number of women and senior citizens are part of the march apart from middle-aged and young farmers. The march has also been supported by The Peasants and Workers Party and CPI. ABKS leaders claim that about one lakh people will join the march after it reaches Mumbai.
ABKS said though these demands were raised two years ago, there has been no progress. “We don’t want announcements, we want it to happen. We have given enough time to the state government to act on our issues. Now, we will not leave the Assembly premises until our issues are resolved,” Ajit Nawale, the state general secretary of the Kisan Sabha, was quoted as saying by The Indian Express.
JP Gavit, a CPI(M) MLA from Nashik’s Kalwan constituency, said the state should improve implementation of the Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006. “Though the Act came in 2006 and the rules came in 2008, the government is not implementing it effectively. As per the Act, only 5 or 10 gunthas is being given to farmers, which is nothing. The farmers can’t do anything with it. We just want the land that tribals have been tilling for decades to be given to them. It may be five, seven or ten acres,” he added.
The Maharashtra Police has, in the meantime, played down the number of farmers taking part in protest. As per a senior police officer, the Thane crowd was not more than 20,000. He added that they expect about 50,000 to 60,000 protestors in Mumbai. “While the agitators claim that one lakh farmers will join the protest, our estimates reveal that the number won’t cross 60,000,” the official said.