Dissatisfied by Maharashtra govt’s assurances, sea of farmers converge in Nashik for protest marchhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/maharashtra-govt-farmers-nashik-mumbai-protest-second-march-police-crackdown-5593404/

Dissatisfied by Maharashtra govt’s assurances, sea of farmers converge in Nashik for protest march

The protesting farmers have reached Nashik to take part in the march, even as the police refused to grant permission to them. The 'long march' to Mumbai called by AIKS will now take place on Thursday morning.

Over 2000 farmers from Dindori started their march towards Nashik today. (Express Photo by Zeeshan Shaikh)

Over 10,000 farmers on Wednesday reached Nashik to take part in the All India Kisan Sabha’s (AIKS) second ‘long march’ to Mumbai. The protest march which will start on Thursday morning was earlier scheduled to take place today. The police had yesterday refused to grant permission for the same. The agitating farmers have been seeking farm loan waiver, minimum support price, irrigation facilities and pension, among other demands.

READ: Nashik police denies nod to farmers’ long march

The announcement regarding tomorrow’s march was made by MLA J P Gavit. The protesters will sleep in Nashik tonight and will move towards Mumbai at 8 in the morning. The state government has deputed senior cabinet minister Girish Mahajan to pacify the farmers and ensure that the long march gets called off.

AIKS state general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale, while addressing the gathering, came down heavily upon the Maharashtra government for betraying the farmers. “The government of Devendra Fadnavis accepted our demands after our first march but went on to betray us. We are here to protest against the betrayal of farmers by this government,” he said.

Former Nashik MP and NCP leader Sameer Bhujbal also turned up to show solidarity with the protesting farmers, as they gathered in the evening. As per state police estimates, around 7,500 people have so far turned up for the farmers’ protest.

The protesters, most of them tribals, landless labourers and small farmers, converged in Nashik from areas like Peint, Trimbakeshwar, Kalwan, Palghar and adjoining areas.

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Most of these farmers came in rickety vehicles which were loaded with provisions including rice, flour, oil and salt in anticipation of the long march that they are planning to undertake to Mumbai.

The participants of the march arrived in Nashik in small contingents. Majority of them got off their vehicles in which they had come and marched around 8-15 Kms into Nashik to reach the starting point of the long march.

Many of the participants are people who took part in the first long march that was organized last year.

“I had walked last year all the way to Mumbai. I was pretty ill throughout the journey and walking for this long does take a toll on your body. I have decided to participate in this protest because if I do not do this now, my future generations will have to live in the same way that I have for so many years,” Ganpat Damu Kunwar, a landless farmer from Nashik district said. Kunwar presently cultivates an acre of land in Ravalgaon village which he does not own.

Kunwar has pinned his hope on the effective implementation of the Forest Right Act which could provide him with a land title. Many of the participating farmers complained that in spite of the state government’s assurances that were given after the first long march, things had not changed much on the ground.

“The government has given us assurances to meet our demands. However, it seems that it has not passed on these orders down to the bureaucracy which continues to behave in an indifferent way towards our questions,” Chabu Gavit, a resident of Surgana said.

The Nashik Police had yesterday denied permission for the long march till Mumbai and had told the organizers that they could only hold a sit-in protest.

On Wednesday, the Nashik Police had made heavy security arrangements to avoid any problems during the gathering. The police have taken over the Mahamarg Bus stand from where intercity buses ply. The area will be used to corral the protestors when they arrive at Mumbai Naka to start their march.

Meanwhile, there were still discussions between the administration and the organizers of the protest to call off the march. The AIKS (Al India Kisan Sabha) however, has insisted that it will go ahead with its programme.

“The AIKS has never been against talks. We are ready for discussions and have initiated it a number of times. However, we have seen how the government has betrayed us and has been negligent to our needs. We are open for discussions but that does not mean that we will call off the march. Both will happen simultaneously,” Dr Ajit Nawle said.

The AIKS march is against what it claims is the government’s inaction in fulfilling promises that it had made to farmers after the first long march held last year. They hope to cover a distance of 180 km on foot in eight days, and on reaching Mumbai on February 27, the farmers plan a march towards the state assembly, which will then be in session for the state budget.

Some of the demands that the AIKS has made this time around include a proposal that the state block all the water from rivers that run into the ocean and divert it for farmers’ needs. It has also demanded that this water should be used for Maharashtra and not diverted to Gujarat. Further, it has sought expedition in the process of providing land titles to landless farmers under the Forest Rights Act.

It is also seeking a complete loan waiver for farmers, the implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations and Rs 40,000 per acre relief for all drought-affected farmers. Its charter of 15 demands included MSP at one-and-a-half times the full cost of production, a pro-farmer crop insurance scheme, increased pension as well as ration and food security. The AIKS has also demanded that the government should give land belonging to various temples in Maharashtra to the farmers for ploughing.

In March last year, around 40,000 farmers had undertaken a march towards Mumbai to stage a protest outside the state legislature against the government’s response to the distress in the farm sector. The farmers’ long march had been called by Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, which is affiliated to the CPI(M).

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The protesting farmers were subsequently given an assurance in writing by the state government that their demands, including clearing pending appeals in connection to applications for titles to forest land, would be accepted. The AIKS had on February 5 said that it wanted to take out a second march, which would reach Mumbai on February 27 to coincide with the state assembly’s budget session. “A year has passed, but the government has not executed the promises it made. There is dissent among farmers,” the AIKS had said in a statement.