Agitating Maharashtra farmers reach Azad Maidan after overnight march; to encircle Assembly building today

Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has called a meeting of officials on Monday to discuss issues plaguing farmers in Maharashtra. The meeting is expected to look into the demands of the thousands of farmers who arrived in Mumbai on Saturday wearing red caps and bearing flags of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), a peasants front of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which organised the march.

Over 30,000 farmers marched from Nashik to Mumbai travelling 180 kilometres over six days. The farmers arrived in Thane on Saturday and marched to the KJ Somaiya ground in Mumbai on Sunday. The farmers are currently stationed at Azad Maidan after an overnight march from Somaiya ground to CST.

They are expected to march to the Vidhan Bhavan at 9 am on Monday to press the government to implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission. According to IANS, complete loan waiver and profit of 1.5 times input cost for all major agriculture commodities are some of the other major demands of the AIKS.

The agitating farmers are also demanding compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre for the destruction of crops due to hailstorm and pink bollworm, allocation of forest land under cultivation to farmers and implementation of Forest Rights Act.

 Agitating Maharashtra farmers reach Azad Maidan after overnight march; to encircle Assembly building today

Protesting farmers in Mumbai on Sunday. Image procured by Sanjay Sawant/Firstpost

The farmers, who started their journey on 6 March from Nashik, plan to encircle the Vidhan Bhavan, where the Budget session of the state legislature is underway, the organisers said.

Though a Bombay High Court order restricts any protests or marches near the Legislative Assembly House area, the farmers on Sunday seemed determined to carry out their march to the Vidhan Bhavan.

Water Resources, Irrigation minister Girish Mahajan who met a delegation of farmers on Sunday afternoon as the chief minister's representative, expressed confidence that the march will conclude peacefully on Monday and with the resolution of the farmers' grievances.

"The govt will look into the demands and will fulfill them. Officials have been called for a meeting tomorrow,"  he told reporters on Sunday. Mahajan also offered farmers an invitation to talk to the govt.

According to IANS, it has been decided that a delegation of farmers, lead by Ajit Nawale, general secretary, All India Kisan Sabha, Dr Ashok Dhawale and a dozen other prominent farmers leaders will meet the government after 10 am.

Nawale, however, said that the march to the Vidhan Bhavan remains unchanged despite the planned talks between the govt and the farmers.

CNN-News18 reported that the farmers plan to march to Azad Maidan in south Mumbai after midnight in order to avoid inconvenience to students who are to appear for their Class 10 examinations.

The farmers are expected to march through Dadar, Byculla and JJ Flyover to reach CST from where they are expected to march to the Vidhan Bhavan.

March of inconvenience?

According to sources, the government on Sunday requested the farmers to give up the idea of encircling the Vidhan Bhavan stating that it will cause grave inconvenience to the public.

The government has reportedly told Mumbai Police not to stop farmers from marching to the Assembly House. However, according to sources talks are on to persuade the farmers to restrict the march to Azad Maidan.

Keeping the fact that Monday is the first day of the week and also a day when Class X Board exams are taking place, the farmers' march will cause a lot of inconvenience, the government had argued, according to sources.


BMC to install toilets, water tankers at protest sites

The Mumbai civic body stated that it will provide 20 mobile toilets at Azad Maidan, which will be increased at night time to 40 toilets. Further, four water tankers will be put in place at the ground. Pay toilets near Azad Maidan and Mantralaya have been instructed to provide free services for two days.

At Somaiyya grounds, the BMC has put in place three water tankers, each with a capacity of 12,000 litres. Further, 120 mobile seats have been hired at the venue. The civic body said that fogging has also been carried out on Saturday to prevent mosquitoes.

Politicians side with farmers

On Saturday, the BJP government in Maharashtra found itself cornered after alliance partner Shiv Sena announced their support to the march. On Sunday, while Aaditya Thackeray met with the farmers at the Somaiya ground, support poured in from Congress, Nationalist Congress Party as well as Maharashtra Navnirman Sena.

Congress leader Ashok Chavan asked the Fadnavis government to accept the demands of the farmers.

BJP also reached out to the protesters on Sunday with Mahajan meeting a delegation of farmers as a representative of the chief minister. Whereas, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena leader Raj Thackeray was expected to meet the farmers at 5 pm on Sunday.

On Monday, NCP leaders Jitendra Awhad, Sunil Tatkare and Dhananjay Munde are expected to join the farmers as they march from Somaiya Ground in Sion to the Legislative Assembly House.

With all eyes set on the Fadnavis government, Monday is crucial not just for Nawale and his 30,000 farmers but also for Mumbaikars.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Mar 12, 2018 06:44:26 IST