Thousands of farmers demanding compensation for drought and transfer of forest rights to tribals Thursday reached Azad Maidan in south Mumbai, eight months after a similar protest was held at the venue.
The farmers and tribals who began the two-day march from Thane to Mumbai on Wednesday had halted for the night at the Somaiyya Ground in Mumbai’s Sion area, from where they began marching to Azad Maidan Thursday morning. The morcha traversed through Dadar and the JJ flyover before reaching the Maidan, adjacent to the Mumbai municipal corporation headquarters.
Magsaysay award winner Dr Rajendra Singh, also known as Waterman of India, was among the marchers. He blamed the government for drought, which he termed as “man-made”. Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has invited the morcha leaders for talks Thursday afternoon at the Vidhan Bhawan, where the winter session of the state legislature in underway, a leader of the march said.
The participants are mostly from Thane, Bhusawal and Marathwada regions, he said. The farmers are demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report, which suggested that farmers must have assured access and control over resources such as land and water. They are also demanding an increase in the minimum support price and a judicial system to ensure its implementation.
The farmers, struggling to cope with the agrarian crisis, are demanding proper implementation of the loan waiver package announced by the BJP-led government in the state last year, land rights for farmers and compensation for farm labourers.
“We have been consistently asking the state government to fulfil our long-standing demands, but the response has been lukewarm. We are forced to launch this agitation,” said Pratibha Shinde, general secretary of Lok Sangharsh Morcha, which is organising the protest.
In March, thousands of farmers, led by the Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha, took out a 180-km long march from Nashik to Mumbai in March to press for their demands. That protest saw a sea of red, formed by farmers in red caps, converge in Mumbai from across Maharashtra.
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