Farmers’ stir ends as govt accepts demands

Pandurang Mhaske
Monday, 12 March 2018

We have agreed to set up a committee to hand over forest land used for farming, to tribals and farmers. — CM Devendra Fadnavis

MUMBAI: Thousands of agitating farmers have called off their protest on Monday after getting an assurance in writing from the State government. Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that the government has accepted all demands and will try to meet them in the future. 

Talking to media persons outside Vidhan Bhawan, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said, “We have agreed to set up a committee to hand over forest land used for farming, to tribals and farmers.”

“A meeting was held with representatives of farmers and Adivasis at Vidhan Bhawan on Monday. We have agreed to set up a committee to allot agricultural land to tribals provided they submit a proof of pre-2005 land cultivation. We have accepted almost all their demands,” CM said.

The Kisan Long March entered Mumbai on Sunday after farmers walked with blistered feet for 180 kilometres in the sun over the last five days. More than 35,000 farmers earlier in the day marched to the Vidhan Sabha in Mumbai, concluding the Long March organised by All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). The farmers were demanding a complete loan waiver among other demands.

As the farmers called off their protest, the Central Railway operated two special trains from Mumbai’s CSMT to Bhusawal on Monday night to allow agitating farmers to go home.

Ajit Nawale, State General Secretary of AIKS, said, “Farmers in the State are reeling under the ripples of agrarian distress and they are under the huge financial burden. 

The government has not done anything to provide them with any relief. So they are left with no option but to express their anguish through the protest march.”

All political parties had supported the farmers’ Long March. Shiv Sena, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Samajwadi Party (SP) and Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party had also backed the agitation.

Mumbaikars have come out in support of poor farmers who took a long march to reach Mumbai. City residents were seen offering ‘vada pav’, other food items and water to farmers on Sunday night. The dabbawalas of Mumbai and city residents came together to provide food for farmers and protesters who reached Azad Maidan early on Monday morning. 

Dabbawalas between Dadar and Colaba collected food and water to deliver it to protesters as part of their ‘roti bank’ initiative. 

Govt positive about demands: CM
The State Assembly witnessed a ruckus on Monday as Fadnavis addressed MLAs over the farmers’ protest in Mumbai’s Azad Maidan. Fadnavis told the Assembly that the State government is quite sensitive and positive about the issues raised by thousands of farmers and tribals. 

“Around 90 to 95 per cent of the participants are poor tribals. They are fighting for forest land rights. They are landless and can’t do farming. The government is sensitive and positive about their demands,” the chief minister said.

The committee formed to resolve the farmers’ problems includes Revenue Minister Chandrakant Patil, Water Resources Minister Girish Mahajan, Co-operation Minister Subhash Deshmukh, Public Undertakings Minister Eknath Shinde and Tribal Welfare Minister Vishnu Savra.

What are the demands?
The farmers have been demanding an unconditional loan waiver scheme after some of them failed to qualify for any financial relief under the Maharashtra government’s initiative last year. The government assured them that they will expand the scope of the farmers’ loan debt cut-off deadline and also appoint two representatives from ABKS in the State Commission for Agriculture and Prices. 

Farmers want the implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission that mandates farmers be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of production and the minimum support price be fixed for their produce. The government said that proposal has been sent to the Central government and will empower the Maharashtra Agriculture Commission.

The Adivasis or tribal cultivators want the land they have been tilling for years to be transferred to their names and implementation of the Forest Rights Act. 

The government agreed to implement the Forest Right Act and also assured that they will measure the land in possession of the tribal and will transfer it to their names as per the record. 

The farmers want the State government to stop forceful acquisition of farmlands for projects such as superhighways and bullet trains. Inter-linking of rivers and to discontinue sharing of waters with Gujarat was another concern that they wanted to discuss. The government assured that no land will be acquired forcefully. Before setting up any project, the government will take a consent from the gram panchayat. 

They also want a compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre for farmers whose crops were hit by hailstorm and pink bollworm. 

Though the proposal has been sent to the Central government, the State will not wait to get help from the Centre and before that, the compensation will be distributed. 
(With PTI inputs)

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