By Prarthana Mitra
Over 35,000 farmers from across Maharashtra marched peacefully to the state capital, Mumbai, on March 11, congregating at Azad Maidan to voice their demands as the budget session of the state assembly was underway. The farmers began the 180-kilometre ‘Long March’ on March 6 from Nashik.
Led by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), farmers from Nashik, Solapur and Sangli painted the roads of Maharashtra red as they marched for four days to put forth their demands, which included compensation for crop damage, loan waivers and pension schemes. A state government delegation was dispatched to attend to the agitators as they reached Mumbai, with the groups reaching an agreement on Monday.
Support came from various quarters
The march garnered nation-wide support from several political parties, including the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s ally in Maharashtra, and the Congress, National Congress Party, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and AAP.
“How many more suicides will it take to give relief to farmers?” asked Congress chief Ashok Chavan in an address to the farmers.
Numerous Mumbai NGOs and residents provided food and shelter to the farmers. Additionally, the Central Railway has also arranged for two trains to transport the farmers back to their villages as soon as the strike is called off.
Promises made by the state government
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis met with a delegation of protestors at the Vidhan Bhavan, promising to concede to most of their demands, including the implementation of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) at the promised rates across the state and complete loan waivers.
An agreement was reached between the ministerial committee and the AIKS leaders, resulting in the withdrawal of the protest by evening.
The government has placated the agitators by assuring them that the Forest Act will be implemented within two months and ration cards will be immediately issued to the farmers.
Unlike the aggressive protests that shook the state last year, the march was peaceful and non-violent. Although the march passed some major towns and cities of Maharashtra, there have been no reports of disturbances.