The locals of Mumbai and its state legislators saw atypical days on Sunday and Monday when the roads of the island city got flooded with thousands of distressed farmers who marched into metropolis and staged protest to push the state government to endorse their demands — stressing on complete and unconditional loan waiver scheme after many farmers failed to qualify for any financial relief under the Maharashtra government’s initiative last year.
This 180-km farmers’ protest march, that reached its seventh day on Monday, is marshalled by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), Maharashtra unit of the CPM’s farmers’ wing. Lustrated as the ‘Long March of Farmers’ and being called as the “sea of red” for their banners and caps, 50,000 farmers kick-started footslogging on March 6 from Nashik!
Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi stated, “Farmers are in poor condition. Government should immediately bring innovative policies to stop farmer suicide. Swaminathan Commission’s proposals should be implemented. Both BJP and Congress failed to take care of farmers.”
“Maharashtra saw 10000 farmers suicide. We should look forward to sustainable welfare of the farmers. Instead of building Shivaji statue with 300 crore, bringing Shivaji’s welfare policies is needed,” he added.
While the whole nation is getting warm-hearted with the farmers, their plight and their bleeding feet, state’s political parties are just on their feet to hijack these issues and get the spotlight notability before upcoming general elections in 2019.
The ‘Long March of Farmers’ also had tribals from the interiors of Maharashtra, they walked along with the farmers of Vidarbha, Marathwada and Khandesh, with totally different demand of land they have been farming for years to be transferred to their names and also the implementation of the Forest Rights Act. Inter-linking of rivers and discontinue sharing of waters with Gujarat were among another concerns.
CPI (M) leader Ajit Abhyankar expressed, “It is an historical event. Farmers have realised the injustice as they were suppressed by the government. Their anger has come out in form of morcha. If government continues to cheat farmers, the backlash will be even stronger.”
He further added, “Make In India, Magnetic Maharashtra all are failed concepts. Government should think seriously on farmers’ welfare.”
The agitators have also demanded implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations that mandate farmers be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of production and the Minimum Support Price to be fixed for their produce. They have asked the government to stop forceful acquisition of farm lands for projects such as super highways and bullet trains and demanded compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre to farmers hit by hailstorm and pink bollworm.
The march got called off after a written assurance from CM. While the Fadnavis government assured to fix the agitators’ most basic demand of new and renewed ration card in six months, they have also agreed to assist and solve land issues in time-bound manner.
While the situation of farmers is indeed grievous and immediate steps are required to alleviate distress of the ailing agriculture sector, farmers waving red communists flags and banners, buzzes the politicisation (in disguise) of the rally for politically benefitting agendas.
The netizens have questioned the reality of this spontaneous and neutral rally and compared this march with a similar one organised by CPI(M) back in May 2015 when Azad Maidan was decorated with red flags and photos of Karl Marx.
Congress MLA Aslam Shaikh voiced that BJP has failed to keep all their election promises including implementation of loan waiver scheme and farmers’ distress has worsened in BJP era. “It is a baseless allegation if BJP calls this morcha as a political motive by opposition. It’s not a joke that farmers walked for 180 km to meet their demands. There is no Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas!” he said.
Historically, politics around agriculture has been central to national politics. To set the tone before 2019 Assembly and Lok Sabha election, Shiv Sena, which recently broke its alliance with the BJP, stood by the farmers’ movement against the BJP. Likewise, Raj Thackeray’s Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS), Congress, NCP, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) and the Swaraj Abhiyan were also found in support of the movement.
“Give me the reins of power and I will show what can be done. Don’t fall prey to their promises. They value you only during elections,” MNS chief greeted the crowd.
BJP MLA Yogesh Sagar stated, “Government is in favour of tribals and farmers who are facing problems. We are also providing loan waiver scheme to those who come under the required criteria. Congress and NCP leaders are politicising this agitation. Shiv Sena and Sharad Pawar are misusing farmers’ feelings for political benefits.”
The amount of food wasted in the country also puts huge pressure on the agriculture sector to produce more crops. Many times agricultural produce gets spoiled before it reaches the market due to lack of storage and transportation facilities.
Government never took any responsibility to introduce innovation in farming; educating farmers about better post-harvesting technologies and locally-specific farm mechanisation to improve storage are also needed.