Farmers' Mumbai march ends with state agreeing to almost all demands

The 200-km, six-day 'Long Kisan March' by over 35,000 farmers ended with the Maharashtra government agreeing to most of the farmers' demands on Monday evening, including the waiver of loans and the right to cultivate forest land.

The decision was announced at a rally addressed by state ministers along with farmer leaders at Mumbai's Azad Maidan, where the peasants arrived at dawn on Monday. Later, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leaders announced that the agitation was withdrawn.

The farmers had got support from across the political spectrum, including some ministers from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party as well as ally Shiv Sena and the opposition.

As the government announced its decision, Communist Party of India (Marxist) general secretary Sitaram Yechury said the striking farmers, who were affiliated to his party, were ending their agitation.

The farmers trekked 180km from Nashik to Mumbai over six days under the blazing sun, some even barefooted, with a slew of demands that included their right to till forest land and a complete loan waiver.

Earlier, three senior ministers - Chandrakant Patil, Girish Mahajan and Eknath Shinde - met the farmers at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai and announced the government's decision to accept their demands.

Maharashtra revenue minister Chandrakant Patil said "all demands" are being accepted. He was addressing farmers camping at Azad Maidan in south Mumbai in the presence of CPI(M) General Secretary Yechury, who said, "After the government accepted our demands in writing and assured to implement them in a time-bound manner, I asked the farmers to go back to their homes."

"We held very cordial discussions and have conceded most of the demands of the tribals, labourers and farmers who took part in the march," chief minister Devendra Fadnavis announced. He said earlier that his government was "sensitive and positive" towards the demands of farmers and tribals, even before he met the farmers' delegation.

According to a Kisan Sabha leader, the main demands pertained to complete 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 bollworm infestation and the unseasonal rains and hailstorm.

On implementing the Forest Rights Act, Fadnavis said that all pending claims / appeals would be cleared within six months. About the farm loans waiver, the government said it had already distributed funds to banks for 4.62 million farmers and loan waivers were disbursed to 3.55 million.

On the implementation of the M S Swaminathan Commission report, he said the government would pursue it with the centre.

Additionally, farmers who were not entitled to the loan waiver scheme of 2008 would be brought under the ambit of the current Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, and farmers would now get the benefits from 2001 on.

Other demands including water projects, the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme, fixing of milk rates and pending issues with ration cards to enable farmers and poor get ration at fair price shops were also settled amicably.

''Glorious victory to #KisanLongMarch. Maharashtra Govt. was forced to agree on all demands of farmers & adivasis,'' the AIKS tweeted.

The 35,000-plus farmers, including men, women and youths, camped under the scorching sun at the historic Azad Maidan from dawn, will start returning to return to their homes tonight. The government also said the government has made arrangements to send them back to their native places by special trains.

The Congress on Monday extended support to the farmers and tribals protesting in Mumbai, as party president Rahul Gandhi urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis "not to stand on ego" but to accept the demonstrators' "just demands".

Nationalist Congress Party leader and former union agriculture minister and Sharad Pawar and social crusader Anna Hazare on Monday strongly criticized the ruling BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra for letting down the farmers.

But BJP MP Poonam Mahajan struck a jarring note when she said today that farmers and tribals protesting in Maharashtra were being misguided by "urban Maoists". The remarks drew flak from the CPI(M), NCP and the AAP.

The famous 'dabbawalas' of Mumbai and the city residents came out to help the thousands of farmers by providing them food and water.

Subhash Talekar, the spokesperson of 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.

"We asked our men working between Dadar (in Central Mumbai) and Colaba (South Mumnbai) to collect food and deliver it to our farmer brothers at the Azad Maidan," he said.

Speakinng to ANI, Joint Commissioner of Police (Traffic) Amitesh Kumar, had said that no road closures or diversions had been implemented due to the farmers' protest.

Contrary to the worries of the people of a possible traffic chaos, the Mumbai Police tweeted that the traffic movements will remain normal just "like any other day" during the long march.

Chief minister Fadnavis has formed a six-member committee to look into the demands of the agitating farmers before they marched to the Vidhan Sabha.

The decision was taken during a meeting held at Fadnavis' residence, informed a Chief Ministers Officers source.

The committee will comprise Maharashtra revenue minister Chandrakant Patil, agriculture minister Pandurang Fundkar, irrigation minister Girish Mahajan, tribal development minister Vishnu Savara, state cooperatives minister Subhash Deshmukh and Shiv Sena's PWD Minister Eknath Shinde.