THE mood at Azad Maidan was triumphant on Monday evening as leaders read out, point by point, assurances that the state government made, “in writing”, to a delegation of the All India Kisan Sabha. The first announcement read out was that the government has agreed to clear pending appeals regarding applications for titles to forest land and would conduct re-measurement of land where farmers have appealed against not getting their complete entitlement as per the Forest Rights Act, 2006. A huge cheer went up immediately. Kachru Malkear from Ashewadi village in Dindori, Nashik district, said the decision was positive. “I till 4 acres of land but it is not in my name. Now, a decision has been taken and the matter will be sorted out in six months,” said Malekar, a 57-year-old farmer, a satisfied smile on his face.
Malekar, in fact, felt that while the government might even delay promises made on the farm loan waiver, the presence of thousands of tribals in the protest would ensure that the issue of transferring forest land to the names of traditional tillers would be resolved as promised.
“A good decision has been taken on the forest land. What is more important is that the government has given the assurances in writing. I have taken part in several protests but this is the first time that we have got something on paper,” said Ramu Bhoye, a 40-year-old farmer from Hatti village in Surgana, Nashik district.
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The farmers’ leaders repeatedly emphasised that the state government had given all its assurances in writing, and also that the assurances would be tabled on the floor of the state legislature on Tuesday.
Soon after the leaders read out the assurances, several protesters began to move towards jeeps parked in a corner of the ground while others waited to check on what other travel arrangements were available to return home.
“The government has looted and exploited our earlier generations and the farm loan waiver is a loot-wapasi. We are getting the first installment of it,” said Ajit Nawale, state general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha, addressing the people at Azad Maidan.
Earlier, Sitaram Yechury, general secretary of CPI(M), also addressed the farmers at the Azad Maidan and slammed Prime Minister Narendra Modi for not taking action against “corporates who are looting the country”. “We will continue our fight until we manage to stop farmers’ suicides. While the government is giving waiver to corporates, it is refusing the same to farmers,” said Yechury.
Meanwhile, the Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation (MSTRC) reserved additional buses from Azad Maidan and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) to ferry the farmers home. “Two of the buses were completely reserved for their commute. We would provide additional buses if need be,” a senior MSRCTC official said, adding that an additional 15 buses would be provided from Kasara station. Also, six BEST buses that usually ply from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) office at CSMT were diverted on DN Road.
The Central Railway arranged two special trains on Monday evening to ferry farmers from CSMT to Bhusawal in Jalgaon. Officials said an additional coach was also provided in the Panchvati Express, Howrah Mail and Dadar-Shirdi Express to facilitate their return from Mumbai.
(With inputs from Neha Kulkarni)