Maharashtra CM bows to demands of farmers

Gives assurance to address issues in six months

March 13, 2018 12:49 am | Updated 06:12 pm IST - Mumbai

Triumphant entry:  Farmers march past the CST to reach  Azad Maidan in Mumbai on Monday.

Triumphant entry: Farmers march past the CST to reach Azad Maidan in Mumbai on Monday.

The Maharashtra government on Monday offered a six-month road map to address agrarian distress, bowing to the demands of aggrieved farmers.

Fifteen thousand farmers and tribal people, led by the All India Kisan Sabha, had marched nearly 200 km to the State capital, before assembling less than two km from the Vidhan Bhawan.

A warm reception

The people from the villages marching to South Mumbai’s Azad Maidan in the early hours of Monday to avoid inconveniencing the average Mumbaikar received a warm reception from their urban peers. By late evening, the plan to gherao the Assembly was dropped. After hectic parleys between their representatives and government emissaries led to a firm assurance on their demands, several farmers were on their way home on special trains.

“We have agreed to all of their demands and have given them an assurance in writing to resolve them in six months,” Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced at 6.00 p.m. after a marathon round of negotiations with eight farmer representatives.

Mr. Fadnavis had found his party BJP isolated by Sunday, with Opposition parties as well as ally Shiv Sena rallying behind the farmers. “We wanted to resolve this on Day One, but the protesters were firm on taking out a march. This long march from Nashik to Mumbai has brought important demands. Nearly 95% poor tribals were part of this march,” he said. An unconditional loan waiver programme to include categories of farmers earlier excluded, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission Report which includes a higher compensation for land acquisition, a ₹50,000 compense for farmers affected by natural calamities are the demands conceded.

Giving land to those who have received title area lesser than their eligibility and a sensitive approach to land acquisition for the bullet train and property corridor projects – were also agreed upon.

The State government also committed to implement the Forest Rights Act of 2006, including settling of all claims of ownership to the landless tribals.

‘Most protesters were landless poor tribals’

Following heated arguments in the Maharashtra Assembly with members of the Opposition, Mr. Fadnavis stressed that a majority of the protesters were landless poor tribals, who have suffered decades of injustice in the absence of land titles.

Without land rights, the tribals could not get loan and convert their land for agriculture and therefore, could never become farmers as a result, he pointed out. “We have agreed to at least seven demands on the spot. These are landless tribals and the most important demands were related to land ownership, which we have agreed to resolve at the earliest,” said Chief Secretary Sumit Mallick.

One of these demands included providing ration cards quickly for those who have lost or damaged them. In the meanwhile, farmers have been assured that they won’t be denied rations and complaints regarding this will be personally overseen by the Chief Secretary.

While Mr. Fadnavis had formed a committee of six ministers on Sunday to negotiate with the farmers, Irrigation Minister Girish Mahajan was deputed to walk overnight with the protesting farmers and tribals.

The government and the police had requested those marching to walk to the Azad Maidan before sunrise to avoid disruptions for commuters and exam-going children. The Chief Minister thanked them for agreeing to the idea.

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