Finally, the Maharashtra government seems to have woken up to the plight of the farmers who are planning to gherao the state Assembly on Monday to press for their demands, including complete waiver of loans. The 180-km "long march" of farmers and farm activists has already received support from all parties except the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), underlining broad concerns around the farm sector and the isolation of the BJP on the issue.
From the government's side, Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan, who is also guardian minister for Nashik district, met farmers' leaders in Mulund as the march entered Mumbai, and assured that most of their demands will be met.
Traveling by foot for almost a week, eating, bathing and sleeping at open grounds or on river banks along the way, the farmers are scheduled to reach Vidhan Bhavan Monday. And even Raj Thackeray, who came and met us.
A task force appointed by Maharashtra government has urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to relook into the status of the government's agrarian programme to resolve farmers' issues in drylands of the country.
The organisation also wants the state to implement recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, which include better minimum support price for farm produce.
Ajit Navale, state secretary of AIKS, said they will leave for Azad Maidan at 2am.
Maharashtra, India's most prosperous state, had announced a farm loan waiver of 340 billion rupees ($5.23 billion) in June 2017, but the protest leaders said it failed to benefit all needy farmers. The march will be attended by AIKS national president Ashok Dawale, CPM MLA JP Gavit, state president Kisan Gujar and working president Arjun Ade among others.
Numerous marchers, braving the early summer heat, were seen reaching Mumbai with red and swollen eyes, broken or temporarily mended footwear, dusty, torn clothes, having barely managed a square meal or a proper bath during the past week as they started in Nashik on Wednesday. Besides, they are pressing for unconditional loan waiver and return of forest land. The government has not done anything to provide them any relief.
Another farmer named Kangodi had this to say, "I am fed up with government policies. The loan waiver scheme has not helped us as many of us do not have big land holdings", she said. I have left all my work to join the protest as I have no money now. The government is merely pretending to fulfil its promises.
Narayan Gavit, a Tribal farmer, said that he was promised that the land belonging to the forest department that he was farming would be transferred to him, but nothing happened. Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh and RPI workers participated in the protest and welcomed the agitators at various places in Mumbai on Sunday.
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