Women Farmers Join 'Long March' to Mumbai to Demand Land, Forest Rights

The massive Long March of the Maharashtra unit of the All India Kisan Sabha. Express

The farmers protest in its wake raised a political hue and cry in Maharashtra as opposition Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and ruling Shiv Sena launched a broadside against the Fadnavis government for "miserable" condition of farmers and farm labourers. The farmers had walked 180 kms from Nashik to Mumbai to hold demonstrations for their demands, which include implementation of Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, complete and unconditional waiver of their loans and electricity bills, among others.

Subhash Talekar, the spokesperson for the Mumbai Dabbawala Association, said: "We thought about helping the farmers with food as they are our food-providers and have come from remote parts of the state". The government sought six months time from the farmers to fulfil their demands, including right to till forestland, as thousands of farmers converged here in a sea of red.

Agriculture employs more than half of India's 1.3 people but has seen earnings dwindle over the years and now only adds 15 per cent to India's economy. A majority of these Adivasis work on forest land and said they have not been granted ownership rights under the Forest Rights Act.

All India Kisan Sabha protest and that began from the from Nashik on Tuesday, March 6, reached Mumbai today.

About the commitments made, he said, "An important decision we have taken is to extend the loan waiver scheme to cover the 2001-to-2009 period as many farmers (affected during this time) didn't get any benefit in the waiver announced in 2008".

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Slamming Mahajan, CPI (M) leader MB Rajesh said, "The Kisan Sabha is leading the rally".

They also should not be losing out to "fancy" projects such as the bullet train and Nagpur-Mumbai super expressway.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis assured protest leaders on Monday that their demands would be met. "The farming community is feeling betrayed by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led governments in Maharashtra and at the Centre", Dhavale said.

Many farmers backed by the Congress, NCP and Shv Sena want a blanket waiver without verifying the credentials of farmers who have applied for loan amnesty. "I appeal to the PM Modi and the CM to not stand on ego and to accept their just demands", Rahul Gandhi tweeted.

Exhausted of being on the sidelines of the discussion during every Parliament session, over 35,000 neglected and angry farmers marched for nearly 180 kilometers from the city of Nashik to Mumbai to make themselves heard at last.

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