Farmers in Maharashtra began their eight- day long protest march on Thursday from Nashik to Mumbai. Their demands highlight loan waivers, minimum support price and land rights. A similar protest was carried out 11 months ago in the state.
The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which has organised the approximately 200 kilometre Long March, has said the protest will start even as they are holding talks with the BJP-led government in the state.
The organisation affiliated to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) said its meeting with state water resources minister Girish Mahajan late on Wednesday night was satisfactory but they want the state government to take action accordingly.
“Mahajan has said he will consult the chief minister (Devendra Fadnavis) and solve this tangle. However, we have decided to start our march and will withdraw only when we get a proper guarantee and timeline [to resolve the issues] from the state government,” said AIKS president Ashok Dhawale.
The farmers’ march, which was supposed to start on Wednesday, was deferred by a day after police detained vehicles carrying the farmers to the venue in places like Palghar, Kasara, Dahanu and Jawhar.
In addition, Nashik Police denied them permission for the march and gave them the green signal just for the meeting at the venue. However, the farmers have started their long march disregarding the permission saying they were exercising their democratic right to protest.
The farmers have been demanding a revision of the river linking agreement to ensure that water is not diverted to Gujarat, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations, transfer of forest land to tribals and pension scheme for farmers.
In March last year, a similar protest was organised by AIKS in which 30,000 farmers participated. They withdrew the protest after the state government assured it will fulfil their demands.
However, they claim that they were cheated as a majority of their demands are yet to see the light of the day.
Lok Sangharsh Morcha, an outfit that works for the rights of tribals and farmers in Maharashtra and Gujarat, held a similar march in November last year to demand, among other things, transfer of land rights to 2.31 lakh eligible tribals and relief to drought-affected farmers.
They withdrew their protest following a written assurance from the state government that their demands would be met within three months.