As Swabhimani Shetkari Sangathana (SSS) founder Raju Shetti, who has been on an Atmaklesh (repentance) Yatra, reached Matunga — the last pit stop before Raj Bhavan — on Monday, a group of about 15,000 supporters walked with him from Govandi to Matunga. Shetti is taking 6.5 lakh handwritten applications by the farmers in his home district to Raj Bhavan. He has an appointment with the Governor C Vidyasagar Rao on Tuesday. More people are expected to join Shetti’s march and the number of his supporters is expected to rise to 25,000 people.
“People’s support in Mumbai has been great. There have been doctors, engineers, accountants and even auto-rickshaw drivers who have joined me on my padyatra,” said Shetti, who is the Member of Parliament (MP) from the Hatkanangle (Kolhapur) constituency in eastern Maharashtra. Shetti, who came to Pune from Hatkanangle, started on his journey on foot from Pune on March 22, citing “betrayal” by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the 2014 general elections.
“They said that the loans would not trouble our farmers, but their system hasn’t worked. I am undertaking this yatra to repent my decision to support the NDA alliance as well as to appeal to Devendra Fadnavis to waive the farmer loans,” said Shetti. Shetti and his group entered Mumbai on Sunday, initially stopping at Panvel, Belapur, and Vashi. On Monday, he planned to walk from Govandi to Parel, with a stop at Five Gardens in Matunga. His followers filled two of the five parks in the area. Shetti took a variety of medicines and there were at least two people fanning him. Shetti turns 50 on Thursday.
“He has high blood pressure and both his knees are withering. The constant walking has taken a toll on his body. Thankfully, the march is concluding tomorrow,” said Dr Mahavir Akole, who has been with Shetti since the march began. ”I’ve studied the situation extensively”, said Rohan Thikane, 27, a business analyst, who marched with Shetti. “I know the price dynamics behind this. The benefits aren’t being passed on to the farmers. There is a loss of nearly Rs 11 lakh crore,” said Thikane, whose father is a farmer.
With a large crowd marching to Parel on Monday, the traffic, however, did not see major disruption. “We had planned this way in advance. We had informed Mumbai Police on May 20. The clearances were done too,” said Swastik Patil, a member of the yatra organising committee. “We are in constant touch with the Commissioner of Police and will look to avoid any traffic disruption tomorrow as well,” said Patil.
”There wasn’t any major disturbance to the traffic along their route. As usual, there were plenty of onlookers, but it didn’t cause any problem for us,” said Saurabh Tripathi, DCP traffic.