of the scorching heat, over 35,000 protesting farmers from across Maharashtra have converged at Azad Maidan, Mumbai in support of their demands after covering almost 180km on foot over five days. The Mumbai police have deployed heavy security in and around south Mumbai, especially Azad Maidan, where the farmers have halted, and Vidhan Bhavan, on Monday, to ensure there are no untoward incidents.What's happening in Maharashtra?
Over 35,000 farmers from across Maharashtra, led by Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), embarked on a ‘Long March’ from Nashik to Mumbai on March 6 to channel their demands. Their 180 km march ended in Mumbai on March 11.What are their demands?
Farmers, who are struggling to cope up with the agrarian crisis and natural calamities, demand:
- A pension scheme for farmers.
- An unconditional waiver of loans as well as electricity bills.
- Implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations, including an announcement of minimum support price for agriculture produce.
- Monetary compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre for crop damage because of last month’s hailstorms and unseasonal rains.
Their another main demand is transfer of forest land they have been tilling for long.Do they have any political support?
Shiv Sena, a partner in the ruling BJP-led coalition, has vocally supported the agitation. Apart from them, Opposition Congress, NCP, Raj Thackeray-led Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and AAP have also extended their help and assistance.Now, what?
The police said the farmers would not be allowed to proceed from Azad Maidan to the state assembly, where the Budget session is underway, and that they are prepared to restrict them. A delegation of farmers is expected to meet chief minister Devendra Fadnavis to convey their demands.How did Maharashtra government respond?
Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis held a high-level meeting on Sunday to review the state of affairs. “We are positive on the demands of the farmers. We have set up a six-member cabinet committee to discuss their demands,” he said after the meeting.
Even though the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre has set a target of doubling farm incomes by 2022, the agriculture growth rates have been unsteady in the recent past. While it was 1.5% in 2012-13, it rose to 5.6% in 2013-14. In 2014-15, the rate dipped to (-) 0.2%, while in 2015-16 it was 0.7%. The provisional estimate puts it at 4.9% in 2016-17. The trend reflects the distress in the agriculture sector in India and a major reason why farmers are protesting.By: Thamanna Abdul Latheef Cthamanna@molitics.in