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Blistered feet, silent tears and ultimate victory: Maharashtra farmers call off protests, return home as govt agrees to demands

By FnF Correspondent | PUBLISHED: 13, Mar 2018, 10:20 am IST | UPDATED: 13, Mar 2018, 11:30 am IST

Blistered feet, silent tears and ultimate victory: Maharashtra farmers call off protests, return home as govt agrees to demands Mumbai: The gruelling 200-km, six-day 'Long Kisan March' by over 35,000 farmers finally ended on a positive note, with the Maharashtra government agreeing to most of the farmers' demands on Monday evening. These include the right to forest land and waiver of loans. The decision was announced at a rally addressed by state ministers along with farmer leaders at Mumbai's Azad Maidan, where the peasants arrived at dawn on Monday. Later, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leaders announced that the agitation was withdrawn.

In what came as a major victory for farmers, Maharashtra Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil said "all demands" are being accepted. He was addressing farmers camping at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai in the presence of CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury. He also extended his wishes and said: "After the government accepted our demands in writing and assured to implement them in a time-bound manner, I asked the farmers to go back to their homes." "We held very cordial discussions and have conceded most of the demands of the tribals, labourers and farmers who took part in the march," Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced here. Fadnavis had also said earlier that his government was "sensitive and positive" towards the demands of farmers and tribals, even before he met the farmers' delegation.

The agitating farmers were sent home in special trains on Monday as they ended the 180 km 'Kisan Long March' on Monday after Devendra Fadnavis government agreed to their key demands.

The Central Railway on Monday ran two special trains from Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) to Bhusawal to send the agitating farmers back.

According to a Kisan Sabha leader, the main demands pertained to complete implementation of the loan waiver scheme announced last year, implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and compensation for victims of damage to cotton crops following bollworm infestation and the unseasonal rains and hailstorm. On implementing the Forest Rights Act, Fadnavis said that all pending claims/appeals shall be cleared within six months. About the farm loans waiver, the government said it had already distributed funds to banks for 4.62 million farmers and loan waivers were disbursed to 3.55 million.

"We are very happy. Our demands have been met. We will be getting back our land which is like mother to us," Suresh Jairam, a Nashik farmer who was participating in farmers' protest, was quoted as saying by ANI.

The Devendra Fadnavis-led government of Maharashtra on Monday agreed to the list of demands of the thousands of farmers who marched in Mumbai. "We have accepted most of their demands and have given them a written letter," Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said in a statement.

On the implementation of the M S Swaminathan Commission report, he said the government would pursue it with the centre. Additionally, farmers who were not entitled to the loan waiver scheme of 2008 shall be brought under the ambit of the current Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, and farmers from 2001 onwards would now get the benefits. Similar satisfactory outcome was reported for other demands including water projects, the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme, fixing of milk rates and pending issues with ration cards to enable farmers and poor get ration at fair price shops. Kisan Sabha leaders including Ajit Nawale expressed satisfaction over the outcome.

On March 6, over 30,000 farmers began walking from Nashik with the aim to cover 180 km on foot and stage a protest outside the Vidhan Bhawan in Mumbai in a bid to force the state government to accept their demands. The Kisan Long March, organised by the Communist Party of India - Marxist’s farmers body All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), was supported by Shiv Sena, MNS, CPI, AAP and the Swaraj Abhiyaan.

The poor farmers also managed to ensure no inconvenience to students taking the HSC and SSC exams as they walked on Sunday night to Azad Maidan. "We do not want to create problems for students and the office goers. We don't mind suffering more but we don't want our students to suffer more," said Ashok Dhavale, national secretary of ABKS.

The farmers had demanded fair prices and complete loan waiver among other things. They also demanded a change in the plan to link rivers in Nashik, Thane and Palghar districts so as to ensure that tribal lands are not submerged and water from the scheme be made available to these areas and other drought-prone districts.

They also protested against the state government's land acquisition for projects such as high speed rail and super highways.

"We are demanding an increase in pension schemes for poor peasants and farm workers, compensation for losses due to pink bollworm and pest attacks and rehauling of the public distribution system," the march organisers had earlier said.

The 35,000-plus farmers, including men, women and youths, who halted under the scorching sun at the historic Azad Maidan since dawn will prepare to return to their homes later tonight. The govt also said the government has made arrangements to send them back to their native places by special trains. Marching under the AIKS banner, the farmers wing of the CPI-M, many sported red caps and carried red party flags or banners, their lunch wrapped in newspapers. They walked almost 200 km for nearly 150 hours since March 6 and reached Mumbai late on Sunday night. Some had swollen eyes and blistered feet and wore torn clothes.

 1. Shed ego, says Rahul to Modi and Fadnavis: The Congress on Monday extended support to the farmers and tribals protesting in Mumbai, as party president Rahul Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis "not to stand on ego" but to accept the demonstrators' "just demands". The massive farmers' march to Mumbai was a "stunning example of people's power", Gandhi said on Twitter.

Office of RG✔@OfficeOfRG

The mammoth #FarmersMarchToMumbai is a stunning example of people’s power. The Congress party stands with the Farmers & Tribals marching to protest against the Central & State Govts. apathy.

I appeal to PM Modi and the CM to not stand on ego and to accept their just demands.

 2. Have given farmers a written letter: Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis on Monday accepted most of the farmers' demand as well as gave them a written letter promising timely implementation.

3. Farmers can uproot governments, says Yechury: Warning the ruling BJP, Communist Party of India-Marxist General Secretary Sitaram Yechury on Monday said that farmers can "uproot governments at the Centre and in Maharashtra" if they failed to concede their just demands. "Any party which ignores the cause of farmers will not survive. Last year, for the first time in the country, Maharashtra farmers had gone on 'strike' which resulted in the announcement of a farm loan waiver package.

But even after 10 months, it remains unimplemented," he said.

4. Farmers' Long March: Sharad Pawar, Anna Hazare flay BJP: Former union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar and social crusader Anna Hazare on Monday strongly criticized the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) at the Centre and in Maharashtra for letting down the farmers. Speaking to the media in Mumbai and Ralegan-Siddhi (Ahmednagar), the two senior leaders asked why over 30,000 farmers were compelled to march nearly 200 km from Nashik to Mumbai for six days if the government was serious about accepting their demands.

"Why could the state government not depute a team to Nashik to discuss the grievances of the farmers and resolve it? Its four years since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power, but the promises of minimum support price for farm produce has not been implemented," Pawar said.

Moreover, Rashtriya Dal Lok Vice-President Jayant Chowdhury accused BJP of "doing nothing" for farmers and held it responsible for their "worsening condition". He also alleged that the state and Union governments have paid Rs 203.74 billion in the Agriculture Welfare Cell under the insurance head as its premium, however, hardly Rs 40 billion have been given to farmer as compensation.

5. BJP leader calls the protest CPI(M)'s agenda: BJP MP Poonam Mahajan today said farmers and tribals protesting in Maharashtra were being misguided by "urban Maoists". The remarks drew flak from the CPI(M), NCP and AAP, whose leaders targeted the BJP MP for the "insensitive" remarks. "Sadly, tribals have been captured by the Maoists and their centre is in Pune. The government can do a lot for them, but the (Maoists') ideology is stopping them.

"We have seen urban Maoists in many cities of India. They go to districts which are called Maoists affected areas," Mahajan told reporters outside Parliament. "Maoists are misguiding them (the farmers). It is the responsibility of the Maharashtra government to sit with the farmers and sort out the problem," she said as Mumbai's Azad Maidan on Monaday where the morcha took place.

6. Dabbawalas, Mumbaikars provide food to protesting farmers: The famous 'dabbawalas' of Mumbai and the city residents came out to help the thousands of farmers by providing them food and water. According to media reports, food is being distributed among farmers camped at Azad Maidan before they embark on to their march towards State Assembly later in the day.

Subhash Talekar, the spokesperson of Mumbai Dabbawala Association, said, "We thought about helping the farmers with food as they are our food-providers and have come from remote parts of the state." "We asked our men working between Dadar (in Central Mumbai) and Colaba (South Mumnbai) to collect food and deliver it to our farmer brothers at the Azad Maidan," he said.

Dabbawalas, the tiffin-carriers known for their efficient delivery service, provided food to the protesters as a part of their 'roti-bank' initiative. Several farmers were also reported to be suffering from dehydration after marching for more than 30 km on Sunday in Mumbai. There was also medical dispensary set up at Azad Maidan. Doctors said farmers were suffering from blood pressure and diarrhoea.

7. Security beefed up around Azad Maidan: Security had been tightened around Azad Maidan in Maharashtra State Assembly before farmers set to protest there, according to media reports. As earlier mentioned by Mumbai Police, the traffic was normalised but Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Amitesh Kumar had said that police force had been increased around the vicinity as well as all over the city to avoid traffic chaos for students appearing for SSC examination.

8. AAP steps up in support of protesters: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had extended support to the protest. The party had voiced the concerns of the farmers as well as urged Maharashtra CM Devendra Fadnavis to meet all the demands of the agitators.


.@AAPMaharashtra stands in support of #KisanLongMarch by thousands of farmers who are marching towards Mumbai with their demands.

Maharashtra unit of AAP also urged CM @Dev_Fadnavis to meet all the demands of the farmers.

 9. No roads closure or diversion: Speakinng to ANI, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Amitesh Kumar, had said that no road closure or diversions had been implemented due to the farmers' protest. Contrary to the worries of the people of a possible traffic chaos, the Mumbai Police also tweeted that the traffic movements will remain normal just "like any other day" during the long march.

Mumbai Police✔@MumbaiPolice

Today, Traffic mvmt will be normal like any other day. Tr R no diversions  proposed on any road in limits of Mumbai 4 the proposed ‘Long March’. We will be posting updates as and when required. Don’t believe in rumours. Contact @MumbaiPolice & Dial 100 for any such verification.

 10. Fadnavis formed six-member committee to look into demands: Maharasthra CM Devendra Fadnavis formed a six-member committee to look into the demands of the agitating farmers before they marched to the Vidhan Sabha. The decision was taken during a meeting held at Fadnavis' residence, informed a Chief Ministers Officers source. The committee will comprise of Maharashtra Minister Chandrakant Patil, Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar, Irrigation Minister Girish Mahajan, Tribal Development Minister Vishnu Savara, state cooperatives minister Subhash Deshmukh and Shiv Sena leader and PWD Minister Eknath Shinde.
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