The gruelling 200-km, six-day ‘Long Kisan March’ by close to 50,000 farmers finally ended on a positive note, with the Maharashtra government agreeing to some 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 Later, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leaders announced that the agitation was withdrawn.
Close to 50,000 farmers had assembled in Mumbai protesting, and demanding higher crop prices. Many farmers have said that the have been in debt, and despite Narendra Modi’s promise to ensure a 50 percent return over production costs, nothing has moved on the ground.
The farmers had reached Mumbai after marching almost 180 kilometers (124 miles) for nearly a week from Nasik to protest outside the state assembly, according to Ashok Dhawale, president of the All India Kisan Sabha, who was leading the protest.
The city’s police control room, however, had said the assembled crowd numbered 10,000 to 12,000. Maharashtra is the country’s second-biggest producer of cotton and sugar cane and third-biggest grower of pulses.
Farmer suicides in India have been a regular phenomenon and since 2013 over 12000 farmers have committed suicide every year.
Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis had said the government was quite sensitive and positive towards the issues raised by thousands of farmers and tribals who have entered the city after a 180-km walk from Nashik.
Fadnavis told the assembly that 95% of those camping at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan are tribals and “technically” not farmers, even as thousands of protesters wait to meet him on several demands.
The Hindustan Times reported that the farmers had been exhausted, but determined to achieve what they have come for. Parshuram Gaikwad, a farmer from Beed, told HT, “We will not move from the state legislature building until our demands are met. There is no way anyone will back out after reaching so close to the destination. Yes, we are tired and our legs have swollen, but we will complete the walk.”
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.