Braving the blazing sun, more than 30,000 farmers from across Maharashtra covered an arduous 180-km long march to reach the capital city Mumbai on Sunday to stage a protest outside the state legislature against what they call the Devendra Fadnavis-led BJP government’s failure to respond to prevailing farm distress.
The farmers’ “long march” has been called by Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (ABKS), a Left-affiliated outfit. Agitating farmers are planning to gherao the state legislature on Monday as part of their protest.
Some of the key demands of the farmers include a complete farm loan waiver, transfer of forest land to tillers, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre to farmers hit by hailstorm and pink bollworm, and putting a stop to sharing the state’s water with Gujarat.
Reflecting on the ongoing march, CPM general secretary slammed the BJP government for its “oppressive policies” against the farmers. “Farmers marching into Mumbai. To ensure that the BJP govt does not deceive them again. They should get their rightful due,” he tweeted.
Apart from middle-aged farmers and youngsters, a large number of women and senior citizens are part of the march. The Peasants and Workers Party and CPI also extended support to the long march. According to ABKS leaders, close to one lakh people are likely to join the march it reaches Mumbai.
NDA ally Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) of Raj Thackeray and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) have also thrown the weight behind the march. On Friday night, Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde, a senior minister in the Fadnavis government, had met leaders of the agitation with party chief Uddhav Thackeray’s message of support.
“Shiv Sena, MNS, AAP and a few other social organisations have extended their support to the long march. We have accepted it. We will accept the support of those who come forward,” said Ajit Nawale, state general secretary of ABKS.
The farmers had started their march on Tuesday from the CBS Chowk in Nashik, the location of the March 2016 demonstration when close to one lakh farmers had gathered for two days. The farmers are covering 35 kilometers daily, on an average.
With thousands of farmers marching towards Vidhan Sabha, traffic restrictions were put in place between Sion and Mulund. The march will be proceeding from Sion to South Mumbai on Monday, after taking a night-halt at Somaiyya Ground in Sion.