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Maharashtra farmers protest against agrarian distress

12 March 2018

On Sunday, Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis said the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government will talk to the protesting farmers who have undertaken a "Long March" to the city to press their various demands. Currently, the protest has reached Shahapur in Thane district, which is around 73 Km away from Mumbai. "We expect the number to reach 1 lakh before we march towards Vidhan Bhavan at noon", says Shankar Shedam, joint secretary, Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha. The farmers of the state have been demanding a complete waiver of loans and electricity bills.

Past year in June, similar protests gave a rise to intense situation over most parts of the state, forcing the CM Devendra Fadnavis-led government to annouce a conditional Rs 34,000 crore loan waiver, which was not implemented properly, according to farmers.

AIKS Maharashtra President Ashok Dhavale pointed out that the crisis in the farmlands is very severe with "over 400,000 farmers committing suicides in the past 25 years".

Farmers who walked barefoot from Nashik to Mumbai, cutting a distance of 200 km, have reached Mumbai's Azad Maidan to voice out their various demands.

The farmers, who marched with blisters on their feet in the scorching sun, made a decision to walk the last leg of the 180-km march overnight, citing difficulties for office-goers and students appearing for board examinations today. The march to assembly has been deferred till the meeting with the Chief Minister. The police has already issued a traffic advisory.

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The protestors walked 180 kilometres (112 miles) from Nashik to Mumbai over the course of a few days and plan to stage a sit-in protest outside the state legislative assembly building, where the annual budget session is underway. "They have given us a time of 12 noon, and we will be at Vidhan Sabha at 12".

Ajit Nawale of AIKS said senior Sena leader and PWD Minister Eknath Shinde met protesting long march leaders when it entered neighbouring.

Maharashtra has been seeing multiple farmer agitations, said media reports The Nationalist Congress Party, led by Sharad Pawar, has also been holding agitations against the state government.

The farmers are also demanding transfer of forest land that they have been cultivating since generations in their name, besides forceful acquisition of farm lands for development projects. "We are ready to discuss with the government but will not withdraw the protest".

Maharashtra farmers protest against agrarian distress