Maharashtra farmers end strike as CM accepts demands; BJP leader calls protest CPM agenda, draws flakhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/maharashtra-farmers-strike-agrarian-crisis-devendra-fadnavis-cpm-bjp-tribals-forest-rights-act-5095341/

Maharashtra farmers end strike as CM accepts demands; BJP leader calls protest CPM agenda, draws flak

The farmers have been demanding a loan waiver free of any conditions, implementation of the Forest Rights Act, fixed remunerative prices for agri produce, and implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.

Agitating Maharashtra farmers end strike as CM accepts demand; BJP leader calls protest CPM agenda, draws flak
Hundreds of protesting farmers from Nashik arrive in Thane late Saturday on their the way to Mumbai. (Express Photo: Janak Rathod)

Maharashtra’s protesting farmers decided to call off their stir on Monday after Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis agreed to most of their demands. “We have accepted most of their demands and have given them a written letter,” Fadnavis said after meeting a delegation of agitating peasants.

The major demands conceded include the tribals’ right to forest land, loan waiver since 2008, minimum support price for farm produce, the Narpar-Daman Ganga river linking project, 31 water conservation projects among others.

Special train arrangements have been made as the Central Railway will run two special trains from Mumbai’s CSMT to Bhusawal at 8.50 pm and 10.00 pm tonight to send the agitating farmers back.

The state government said the issue of forest land transfer rights would be resolved within six months, adding that a committee would be set up with two representative from Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (AIKS) to look into problems of loan waiver to adivasis and farmers.

State’s Revenue Minister Chandrakant patil said their “all demands” are being accepted. He addressed farmers camping at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai in the presence of CPI-M general secretary Sitaram Yechury.

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Farmers long march moving from Mulund towards Mumbai. (Express photo by Deepak Joshi)

Talking to reporters outside Vidhan Bhawan, CM Fadnavis said, “We have agreed to set up a committee to hand over forest land used for farming, to tribals and farmers. A meeting was held with representatives of farmers and adivasis at Vidhan Bhawan today. We have agreed to set up a committee to allot agricultural land to tribals provided they submit a proof of pre-2005 land cultivation. We have accepted almost all their demands,” Fadnavis said.

READ |Maharashtra farmers’ protest highlights

Under intense pressure to concede the demands of farmers, CM Fadnavis earlier in the day said his government was “sensitive and positive” towards their issues.

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Farmers long march moving from Mulund towards Mumbai. (Express photo by Deepak Joshi)

The latest development came a day after more than 40,000 farmers and tribals from across Maharashtra covered an ardous 180-km journey under the blazing sun for over six days to march slowly into the financial capital of Mumbai. The day also witnessed the state government scrambling to prevent the embarrassment of a gherao of the legislature as threatened by the CPI(M)-affiliated AIKS that has organised the long march.

The six-day-long march began on March 6 from CBS Chowk in Nashik, the location where 1 lakh people had gathered for two days in March 2016.

EXPLAINED |New edge to agrarian distress: Why demands are more than loan waiver

Reflecting on the development, CPM general secretary Sitaram Yechury warned the BJP-led central government of consequences if it went back against its promises. “Now, if the farmers’ demands are not conceded, they will shake up the state and the Centre; remove the government and install a government of their choice which will stand by the farmers’ cause,” Yechury tweeted.

On the other hand, BJP MP Poonam Mahajan said farmers and tribals protesting in Maharashtra were being misguided by “urban Maoists”. “Sadly, tribals have been captured by the Maoists and their centre is in Pune. The government can do a lot for them, but the (Maoists’) ideology is stopping them. We have seen urban Maoists in many cities of India. They go to districts which are called Maoists affected areas,” Mahajan told reporters outside Parliament.

The farmers’ gathering at Azad Maidan on Monday. (Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

“Maoists are misguiding them (the farmers). It is the responsibility of the Maharashtra government to sit with the farmers and sort out the problem,” she said as Mumbai’s Azad Maidan turned into a sea of red this morning with thousands of farmers carrying red flags converging after walking around 180 km from neighbouring Nashik district.

Hitting back at Mahajan, CPI(M) leader MB Rajesh said, “The Kisan Sabha is leading the rally. One can see the posters, banners and flags. I am scared the BJP may also call them anti-nationals.” CPM, through its official twitter handle, condemned the remarks and stated, “These are no “Urban Maoists” , these are the people who feed the nation. But yes they also have the power to bring down arrogant, out-of-touch corporate agents like you and your party!.”

CPM leader Sitaram Techuri along with farmers’ gathering at Azad Maidan on Monday. (Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

The farmers, including a very large number from tribal-dominated talukas in Nashik, Thane and Palghar, have been demanding a loan waiver free of any conditions, implementation of the Forest Rights Act, fixed remunerative prices for agri produce, and implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.

Several parts of Maharashtra frequently face drought, and suicides due to rural indebtedness is common. The farmers were also demanding a change in the plan to link rivers in Nashik, Thane and Palghar districts so as to ensure that tribal lands are not submerged and water from the scheme is made available to these areas and other drought-prone districts.

They were also protesting against the state government’s land acquisition for projects, including high-speed railway and super highways.

More than 40,000 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. (Express photo by Prashant Nadkar)

The opposition Congress, NCP, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and also Shiv Sena, which is part of the BJP-led ruling coalitions in the state and at the Centre, had extended support to the farmers. MNS chief Raj Thackeray and Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray met the farmers yesterday.

The Shiv Sena, BJP’s ruling alliance partner, threw its weight behind the farmers, saying that irrespective of their red flags the party would back them in getting their problems resolved.

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Deviating from its initial plan of camping in Sion on Sunday night, farmers went on to march to Azad Maidan yesterday night itself so that students appearing for their 10th board exams did not face any inconvenience.

With PTI inputs