Maharashtra Farmers dig heels in as govt yet to table assurances in assembly

Waiting and watching to see whether the hurried assurances given to rue All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) are made good, state’s farmers not ready to give in

Farmer Long March

Image Courtesy:mid-day.com

The ‘long march’ of farmers including Adivasis from all parts of Maharashtra has entered its sixth day 

Over 15,099 farmers including Adivasis started a long march to Mumbai on Monday from Nashik, covering a distance of 175 km to press for several demands, including compensation for the crops which were damaged due to unseasonal rainfall, fair price for their produce, farm loan waiver, electricity bills waiver and 12 hours of electricity supply, implementation of the Forest Rights Act (2006) and ownership of the forest land they are cultivating.

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Over 10,000 Farmers And Tribals From Maharashtra Are On A Long March From Nashik To Mumbai

17-point charter of demands

The long march, organised by, All India Kisan Sabha, is a an all India organisation pf farmers affiliated with the Communist Party of India (Marxist).

Last Sunday, March 12,  the AIKS released its 17-point charter of demands, including compensation for onion growers and MSP of Rs 2000/quintal from the following season, better prices for other crops like cotton, soybean, tur, green gram, milk, and related issues of ASHA workers, etc.

Forest Rights Act

Another crucial demand of the marching protesters, especially those from the tribal community, is the implementation of the Forest Rights Act (2006) and recognition of land rights (ownership) of the forest land they are cultivating.

As laud down in the Forest Rights Act, farmers, who have been cultivating forest lands before December 13, 2005, should get access and habitation rights on the land. It also provides ownership rights to other forest dwellers living in forests.

Despite the enactment of this law 17 tears ago, the implementation has been indifferent, largely because of the weaponisation of the forest department bureaucracy under the colonial (yet to be repealed Indian Forest Act of 1927).

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Five years back, in 2018 and again 2019, too, the farmers and tribals took out long marches to press for similar demands. At the time a huge surge of support came in from Mumbai and other urban areas of the state.

Maharashtra government announces ex-gratia payment

The Maharashtra government on March 13 unilaterally announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 300 per quintal to onion farmers severely affected by a steep fall in commodity prices. This was not accepted by the farmers.

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Compensation insufficient: farmers

However, the protesting farmers on the march are demanding an immediate financial relief of Rs 600 per quintal for onion growers.

Sharply criticising Maharashtra CM Eknath Shinde’s offer of giving an ex-gratia of Rs 300/quintal for onion growers,  AIKS Maharashtra General Secretary Dr AjitNawale said it was too meagre and the amount should be hiked to at least Rs 600/quintal, failing which the agitation would intensify. “Unless the government talks to us, we may be compelled to block the Mumbai-Gujarat Highway, only then they will listen,” he said.