Over 15,000 farmers of the All Indian Kisan Sabha (AIKS), demanding a complete waiver of loans, along with amendment in crop prices, arrived in Bhiwandi on Friday as part of their 182-km protest walk from Nashik to Mumbai.
The journey which started from CBS Chowk, Nashik on March 5 is expected to end at the Vidhan Bhavan here on March 12. The demands of the farmers include, implementing a complete loan waiver along with amendments in crop prices in accordance with the Swaminathan Commission report, awarding forest rights, ensuring pension for retired farmers and issuing of new ration cards.
The farmers have been walking 15-20 km per day after which they halt for the night and resume their journey at dawn. The marchers reached Shahapur, the largest taluka in Thane district around 7 p.m. on Thursday before resuming their march on Friday morning to reach Vasind by noon — where a team of farmers that was moving ahead ensured that lunch was ready for everyone.
“Special arrangements were made to divert the traffic and suffice the needs of the marchers. We had one riot force team and a strike team along with police teams posted from nearby stations,” Mahesh Shetty, senior police inspector, Shahapur police station said.
The final stop for Friday was at the banks of Bhatsa near Walkas Phata in Bhiwandi. The marchers will resume journey on Saturday, break for lunch at Kalwa, and spend the night in Vikhroli before reaching Sion on March 11, a day before their planned blockade of access to the Vidhan Bhavan on March 12.
Ajit Nawale, secretary, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) said, “We started protesting for the same issues in March 2016 and now after two years our demands are still the same, as the previous protest failed to reach the government’s deaf ears. We are asking for basic necessities. The last ration survey on the basis of which ration cards were issued was held in 1989, after which new ration cards have not been issued in many interior areas of the state that has deprived the farmers of availing basic commodities at the subsidised price.” Mr. Nawale informed that while the Forest Rights Act was passed in 2006 it was yet to be implemented fully. “The Swaminathan Commission report ensures that farmers get the adequate price for their crops. Is this all too much to ask for,” he said. The AIKS leader further said that through this march, farmers were trying to create pressure on the ministers in a hope that they start taking them seriously.
Umesh Deshmukh, a farmer part of the protest said, “The government has promised to waive off the loans but with the further bifurcated categories the process has been very partial and unfair. My loan has not been waved as my farm’s yield does not meet the selected bandwidth.”
“I am from Sangli, where my grape vineyard will be acquired for the construction of a highway from Ratnagiri to Nagpur. The rate decided is nowhere close to the market rate. This protest will help remind the government that the state will not tolerate another incident where a farmer will end his life due to inadequate compensation,” Sudarshan Girde, a farmer said.
Padma Jadhav, wife of a farmer mentioned that land is all that a farmer has and if there comes a time when a farmer has to choose between the land and his life, he will choose the land. “I hope with this march the government understands and takes some steps to help us,” she said.