Thousands of farmers enter Mumbai, ‘Maximum City’ in for problem

MUMBAI, March 12,2018: A massive crowd of about 50,000 farmers from across Maharastra, braving scorching heat, arrived in Mumbai on Monday.

They had started their long march from Nasik on March 6 for fulfillment of their various demands. The protesters have covered around 180km on foot in six days.

It is expected that the farmers’ march would bring the ‘Maximum City’ to a grinding halt when Mumbaikars begin their week on Monday after two-day weekend closure.

The protesters have started moving towards the Vidhan Bhavan in south Mumbai, where the Budget session is underway, said leaders of the agitation.

Media reports said apart from Opposition parties, the Shiv Sena, a partner in the ruling BJP-led coalition, too has vocally supported the agitation.

After reviewing the situation at a high-level meeting on Sunday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “We are positive on the demands of the farmers. We have set up a six-member cabinet committee to discuss their demands. In view of the on-going examinations, I am sure the farmers will cooperate to help the students reach the exam centres on Monday.”

The farmers under the banner of Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) are demanding among other things proper implementation of the Maharashtra government’s loan waiver scheme.

“We will lay siege to the Vidhan Bhavan on Monday to demand a complete loan waiver, fair price for farm produce, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations and compensation for hailstorm-affected farmers among other things,” president of the state council of AIKS, Kisan Gujar, said.

“Over 20,000 farmers from other parts of the state will too join us on Monday (March 12, 2018),” he said, adding the farmers were also protesting against land acquisition for projects such as high-speed railway and super-highways.

He said the farmers had been asked by the government officials not to stay near the Vidhan Bhavan for a long time, “However, everything will depend on how the government deals with our demands,” he said.

Senior BJP leader and finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar said chief minister Devendra Fadnavis will meet the protesters’ delegation, and blamed the “apathetic” approach of past governments for the farmers’ plight.

“Our government is committed to addressing all the woes of farmers, which have piled up due to the apathetic approach towards them in the last several years. We are very sensitive towards farmers and two ministers, tribal development minister Vishnu Savara and Nasik’s guardian minister Girish Mahajan, have already been asked to look into their demands,” Mungantiwar said.

Ajit Nawale of the AIKS, however, dismissed the approach of the government saying, “The days of living on assurances have passed. Unless the government gives us some concrete commitment in writing, we will continue our march towards the Vidhan Bhavan on March 12 (Monday),” he said.

Senior Shiv Sena leader and cabinet minister Eknath Shinde and Yuva Sena (Shiv Sena’s youth wing) chief Aditya Thackeray also greeted the protesters.

Thackeray said the Shiv Sena supported the farmers in their struggle.

Opposition Congress, NCP, Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and AAP, also extended their support to the agitating farmers.