Maharashtra: After walking with blistered feet for about 180 km in the blazing sun over the last six days, at least 35,000 farmers from Maharashtra’s Nashik district have entered the capital city. They camped at the Thane-Mumbai border this morning before heading for the KJ Somaiya Ground in Sion. The traffic police say they are prepared and have also issued a traffic advisory to avoid jams in the city. Elaborate security arrangements are also in place, police said.
The main demand of the tribals, who comprised the biggest chunk of the march from Nashik to Mumbai from 7-12 March, was to be given the land ownership rights that are guaranteed by the Forest Rights Act passed by the erstwhile Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government.
Ashok Dhawle, president of the AIKS, said they met Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan today who had assured them that he would take their demands to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Shiv Sena leader Aditya Thackeray met with the farmers today.
Mr Dhawle has also promised a peaceful protest and said that people of Mumbai will not be inconvenienced. “We started with 25,000 and today our strength touched the 50,000 mark. It will swell further tomorrow, but it will not disturb the city. We will begin our rally after 11 am so that students appearing for their Class 10 board exam don’t face any difficulties,” Mr Dhawle said.
The farmers began their arduous march on Tuesday evening. Their numbers swelled along the way. They survived on sparse meals, made brief halts and slept under the open sky. They resumed their march before the sun was up and didn’t stop before noon.
Ajit Nawale, state general secretary of AIKS, said their main demand is for a complete loan waiver and the implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report, which says farmers should be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of production for what they produce and the MSP’s should be fixed keeping this in mind.