Mumbai: For the second time in 10 months, Maharashtra farmers cracked the whip on the government to turn spotlight on the grave agrarian crises gripping the state by completing a long march to the Legislature, here on Monday.
More than an estimated 35,000 peasants — men, women, youth and even seniors — with lines of worry collectively writ on their weary faces, determinedly completed the 180-km long march over six days.
Organised by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the farmers wing of Communist Party of India-Marxist, the farmers sporting red caps, red flags, beating drums and cymbals and the tribal blowing instrument –‘tarpa’, marched in disciplined unity as the Bharatiya Janata Party-Shiv Sena braced itself for the political fallout of the peasant power.
In a considerate gesture, the farmers abandoned their night’s rest, to march from the Somaiya Grounds, Vidyavihar starting 2 a.m. (Monday) to reach the historic Azad Maidan at dawn, to avoid inconveniencing students appearing for the ongoing board examinations.
Wary of the potential ramifications as the farmers prepared to lay ‘seige’ on the Maharashtra Legislature on Monday afternoon, the state government hurriedly formed a high-powered six-member Ministerial Committee to discuss all issues with the peasants.
Farmers leader Ajit Nawale said that among the major demands are implementation of the farm loans waiver announced in June 2017, (after farmers in the state went on a ‘strike’), then make the farmers completely debt-free, besides other demands.
“Considering the tremendous response we have evoked from across the state, the government cannot dismiss us lightly. If it continues to dilly-dally on the farm loans waiver or try to take us for a ride, it will face the consequences,” Nawale told reporters late on Sunday.
AIKS Maharashtra President Ashok Dhavale pointed out that the crisis in the farmlands is very severe with “over 400,000 farmers committing suicides in the past 25 years”.
“Agrarian distress is linked to malnutrition… The farming community is feeling betrayed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led governments in Maharashtra and at the Centre,” Dhavale said.
Congress leaders including state chief Ashok Chavan, Radhakrishna Vikhe-Patil and Prithviraj Chavan, and the Nationalist Congress Party’s President Sharad Pawar and Dhananjay Munde and Jitendra Awhad declared support to the marchers.
Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray and Yuva Sena President Aditya Uddhav Thackeray turned up personally to welcome the farmers on Sunday evening.
Many of the 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.
However, they hoped that justice might be finally done to their cause.