Young and old peasants, women and kids of these farmers walked 180 km in the blazing sun over the last six days from Nashik district to Mumbai, turning the arterial roads of India’s financial capital into a sea of red. The thoughtful farmers with blisters on their feet decided to walk the last leg of their march overnight from Thane to Azad Maidan, citing difficulties for office-goers and students appearing for board examinations today. Their numbers swelled from 35,000 to 50,000 along the way.
One might wonder as to what must have irked the farmers so much that they decided to take such a drastic stand? For the uninitiated, it was the same issues that farmers in Maharashtra and around India have been enduring since decades. In this case, the farmers, led by Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) demands included an unconditional waiver of loans as well as electricity bills, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations, including an announcement of minimum support price for agriculture produce and a pension scheme for farmers.
It is indeed a widely known fact that past fiscal has been a severe dent to rural and agriculture economy, following a 16% drop in long-term annual average rainfall, furthering a sharp decline in farm yields across all commodities. To add to that Vidarbha and Marathwada have seen an unprecedented devastation of cotton crop due to pink-worm attack.
Although, the Devendra Fadnavis government claims it has delivered on its loan waiver promise and is doing more than what previous governments did for agriculture, the farmers and those supporting them beg to differ. According to Kisan Gujar, president of the state council of AIKS, the farmers expect a true loan waiver, one that genuinely benefits the majority of farmers, rather than just the limited set that was addressed by the waiver announced last year. He had also taken an extreme stand and said, “We will gherao (lay siege to) the Vidhan Bhavan to demand a complete loan waiver, fair price for farm produce, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, compensation for hailstorm-affected farmers among other things.”
The Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had made his intentions conspicuous when he made a statement that the government was positive on the demands of the farmers and appointed a committee of ministers to settle matters with a 12-member farmers delegation. The civic body along with the Mumbai Police had also provided four water tankers and fifty mobile toilets for the farmers at Azad Maidan. Last night the protest was called off by farmers after the government accepted demands in writing and assured to implement them in a time-bound manner.
It can be concluded that that the government is not apathetic about the farmer protests and insinuates at the fact that such mass level protest is also flamed by those who wish to leverage this unrest among farmers to fulfill their political agendas.
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