[Thousands of farmers started the morcha from CBS Chowk in Nashik on March 6, to highlight their demands, which the government has repeatedly ignored. (Photo: Shrirang Swarge/People’s Archive of Rural India)]
Mumbai: Over 25000 farmers led by Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha (ABKS), are marching towards Mumbai to block access to Mantralaya - the state legislature building, from Monday until their demands are met.
The farmers’ march, which started in Nashik on Tuesday, reached Bhiwandi in Thane district on Saturday. The farmers are expected to reach Mumbai by Sunday evening and proceed straight to Mantralaya where the budget session is underway.
The 180-km march of the farmers, who are also accompanied by a large number of women and children, has come at a time when a billionaire like Nirav Modi had fled the country by looting banks of around Rs 12,600 crore in the form of unpaid loans. The farmers and their supporters say that when the country's agricultural sector is facing a massive crisis due to drought, suicides of farmers, rising debt of farmers and failure to get minimum support price (MSP), among others, the farmers deserve full waiver of loans.
"Why not? When the government can waive off the loans of businessmen and corporate, why not ours? It is the farmers who voted for you in large numbers, not the industrialists", the agitating farmers had recently told BJP President Amit Shah.
The protesting farmers say that they are miffed with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) "anti-farmer policies". Around 1,753 debt-ridden farmers have committed suicide in the western state since June last year, claims the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS).
"The government is pro-rich and anti-poor. How can the government let billionaires like Nirav Modi and Vijay Mallya (another fugitive) have gala time at foreign shores and farmers suffer because of increasing debts?" asked a protesting farmer.
[After a long day of walking, some farmers sing and dance at night; others like Waghere are exhausted; soon, everyone rests for the night under the open sky. (Photo: Shrirang Swarge/People’s Archive of Rural India)]
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had in 2017 announced partial loan waiver but the protesting farmers said even this was not properly implemented. Along with proper implementation of the loan waiver package announced by the Chief Minister, the farmers in Maharashtra, who are struggling to cope with the agrarian crisis and natural calamities, are also demanding the implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission.
“The state government declared a loan waiver package, but 1,753 farmers have committed suicide since then because of its poor implementation. More than 25,000 farmers are now on the highway in intense heat demanding their rights,” said Ajit Nawale, State General Secretary, ABKS.
“In 2015, we had protested for the farmers to get their [rights to the] forest land, better rates for crops, a loan waiver and so on. The government is merely pretending to fulfil its promises. This time it is now or never", he added.
As the march moves along, more farmers from across Maharashtra – from Marathwada, Raigad, Vidarbha and other districts – are expected to join and the numbers are likely to multiply by the time the morcha reaches Mumbai on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by veteran Maratha leader Sharad Pawar is organising a protest rally in support of the farmers today in Nashik. The NCP had recently launched 'Halla Bol Andolan' agitation against the BJP led government in Maharashtra.
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