Around 20,000 farmers, led by the Maharashtra unit of the farmers' outfit Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (ABKS), the farmers' organisation of the CPI (M), are marching towards Mumbai to picketing the Maharashtra assembly building, Vidhan Bhavan, from Monday, March 12, until their demands are met. Farmers are demanding a complete waiver of loans and electricity bills and the implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. They also demand minimum support price for the products.
The farmers' long march started in Nashik on Wednesday, March 6, reached Thane district's Shahapur town on Friday. Traveling by foot for nearly a week, eating, bathing and sleeping at open grounds or along the way, the farmers will walk around 165 km from Nashik to Mumbai. As the march moves along, more farmers from across Maharashtra- from Marathwada, Raigad, Vidarbha and other districts- are joining by the time morcha reaches Mumbai. They are planning to reach Mumbai by Sunday, March 11, evening. The protest is likely to create trouble for the BJP led Maharashtra government as budget session is underway.
The main demand of the farmers is the implementation of the loan waiver package announced by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis in 2017. The implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission is the second major demand. "The state government declared a loan waiver package, but 1,753 farmers have committed suicides since then because it has failed miserably because of poor implementation," said Ajit Nawale, state general secretary, ABKS. "We want the state government to refrain from the forceful acquisition of farmlands in the name of development projects like the superhighway and tracks for bullet trains", added Raju Desle, the secretary.
The ABKS also wants farmers in the state to be given Rs.40,000 per acre as monetary assistance for crop damage because of last month's hailstorms and unseasonal rains.