Farmers of All Indian Kisan Sabha (AIKS)
Farmers of All Indian Kisan Sabha (AIKS) marching from Nashik to Mumbai | PTI Photo by Mitesh Bhuvad
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The opposition raised the issue in the house Monday, while the BJP’s bitter ally Shiv Sena slammed the government in an editorial in Saamana.

Mumbai: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Maharashtra government has approached the leaders of the ongoing farmer agitation to discuss their demands, and promised a time-bound solution to grievances.

Nearly a week after thousands of farmers set out on a protest march from Nashik to Mumbai, covering 170 km on foot, chief minister Devendra Fadnavis has constituted a six-member ministerial committee under revenue minister Chandrakant Patil to look into the matter. Members include state water resources minister Girish Mahajan, the guardian minister for Nashik.

The committee met the leaders of the march, organised by the Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), at 1 pm Monday.

“We will decide the course of action depending on the outcome of the meeting,” AIKS president Ashok Dhawale said ahead of the meeting, “We will insist on the government consenting to our primary demands.”

Cornered by the stir

The state government has found itself cornered on the march, with members of the Shiv Sena, the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) visiting the protesting farmers earlier. The opposition raised the issue in the house Monday, while the BJP’s bitter ally Shiv Sena slammed the government in an editorial in Saamana.

“The government has rubbed salt into the wounds of the poor distressed by making false promises in its budget. One Dhule farmer, Dharma Patil, came to Mumbai’s Mantralaya and committed suicide,” the editorial read.

“Now, thousands of Dharma Patils have made their way towards Mumbai raising slogans of ‘jai kisan’. Their anger and frustration will definitely turn the government into ashes,” it added.

“Support from across political parties,” Dhawale said, “has definitely helped in creating pressure on the government to act.”

The demands

The main demands of the farmers include proper execution of the state’s promised farm loan waiver; the implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan committee for farmers, which included the prevention of prime agricultural land’s diversion to the corporate sector for non-agricultural use; the transfer of forest land to the tribals who have cultivated it for years; and a pension for poor farmers.

Speaking in the legislative assembly, Fadnavis said Monday, “Girish Mahajan was constantly in talks with the protesters, but they were adamant on a protest. The government is positive about addressing the demands of farmers. We will definitely try to resolve all their issues…”

Farmers started the march last Tuesday with the intention of concluding it at Vidhan Bhavan, where the state’s budget session is underway. When they reached Mumbai Sunday, Mahajan met them with an assurance that the government would hold discussions on their demands.

In order to avoid inconvenience to locals on their weekday commute, especially Class 10 and 12 students whose board exams are underway, the protesters ditched the original plan to halt at Somaiya Grounds, Sion, in central Mumbai, and continued their walk towards Azad Maidan in south Mumbai Sunday night.

Left leaders such as CPI (M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury and Rajya Sabha member K.K. Ragesh, also an office-bearer of the AIKS, were scheduled to join the protesting farmers at Azad Maidan Monday.

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