Ugaoo Salutes #KisanLongMarch
On March 6, nearly 10000 farmers embarked on a long march from near Nashik to the Maharashtra assembly in Mumbai. By the time they reached Maximum City on March 12, walking about 25 km a day to cover the 180 km, their numbers, by some estimates had touched 40000.
Farmers march to Mumbai in March
Men and women of all age groups walked in searing heat – the temperature peaked at 38-degree Celsius on some days. Some were in their late seventies, and walked barefoot as they tried to draw attention to their distress in a silent, dignified manner. En route, they cooked simple meals for themselves and refilled their bottle with water from tankers. By day, they kept up their spirits with slogans enunciating their rights and the strength of unity. At night, many relaxed with music and singing. Waking at the crack of dawn, they were off again at 6 a.m. every morning.
Residents extend support
As they neared Shahpur in Thane district, residents came out in support and provided water and refreshments. Near Mumbai’s border on March 10, the long strip of red evoked a poignant response from a city that is usually insular to rural distress. On March 11, as they reached Vikhroli, residents showered flower petals on them and provided water. A nearby gurudwara cooked Poha and served it to the marchers. For the rest of the way, scores of people chipped in with refreshments at regular intervals.
Farmers with a golden heart
The original plan was to start from Sion on the morning of March 12, but that was dropped to avoid disrupting the city life, as children were in the midst of exams. Displaying an empathy rarely seen among protesting groups, the farmers found hidden reserves of energy to attain their goal and let the city go about its business. They marched through the night after just a few hours rest and assembled peacefully at Azad Maidan before the break. In the process, the farmers, with their tired limbs and steely resolves, not only won Mumbai’s heart but also left the Chief Minister ‘humbled’. By evening, the government yielded to most of the demands of their long march, and special trains were arranged to take them back to their fields.
Information initially printed in The Hindu, Sunday, March 18, 2018
Watch the #KisanLongMarch video here.
- Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis formed a six-member committee to evaluate the demands of the farmers before they reached the Vidhan Sabha.
- The committee comprised of Maharashtra Minister Chandrakant Patil, state cooperatives minister Subhash Deshmukh, Irrigation Minister Girish Mahajan, Agriculture Minister Pandurang Fundkar, Tribal Development Minister Vishnu Savara, and Shiv Sena leader and PWD Minister Eknath Shinde.
- The main demands revolved around the completion of implementation of the loan waiver scheme announced last year, implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and compensation for victims of damage to cotton crops following unpredicted weather condition like unseasonal rains and hailstorm.
- On implementing the Forest Rights Act, Fadnavis said that all pending claims and appeals should be cleared within six months.
- About the farm loans waiver, the government that the funds were already distributed to banks for 4.62 million farmers and loan waivers were disbursed to 3.55 million.
- Regarding the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Commission report, he said the government would take it up with the centre.
- Also, farmers who were not entitled to the loan waiver scheme of 2008 shall be brought under the ambit of the current Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, and farmers from 2001 onwards would garner the benefits.
- Satisfactory decisions were reported for other demands including water projects, Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme, the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, fixing of milk rates, and pending issues with ration cards for farmers.
It took 40000 farmers, 180 km, swollen eyes, torn clothes and blistered feet to get the demands fulfilled of a community that feeds the entire nation.
Isn’t it a wake-up call?
- Print Edition of The Hindu, Sunday, March 18, 2018