Nearly 35,000 farmers from the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) from across Maharashtra entered Mumbai, on Sunday 11 March afternoon. The farmers, who are demanding proper implementation of the Maharashtra government’s loan waiver scheme, plan an overnight march in the city.

They are all set to gherao the state Assembly in protests on Monday, 12 March morning. The agitating farmers claim that 20,000 more farmers will join the protests in Monday.

Farmers Plan Overnight March

The farmers, who had camped at the Somaiya ground in suburban Chunabhatti, said they plan to move towards the Azad Maidan, about 15 km away, around midnight.

“We do not want to put citizens of Mumbai or SSC students in any trouble. But we will reach Azad Maidan. Therefore, we have decided to start walking past midnight,” AIKS president Ashok Dhawale said.

Leave For Exam Centre Early: Maharashtra Education Minister

In view of farmers’ Long March, Maharashtra Education Minister Vinod Tawde has advised SSC students to reach exam centres in Mumbai well in time on Monday.

Thousands of Farmers to ‘Gherao’ Vidhan Sabha Tomorrow

The Maharashtra government reached out to farmers, promising to meet their demands, but farmers’ leaders said they will press on with Monday’s protest at the Vidhan Bhavan (Legislature Complex).

The protesters will halt at the Somaiya ground in suburban Chunabhatti for Sunday night, and set out for Vidhan Bhavan in south Mumbai, where the Budget session is underway, on Monday.

“We will gherao (lay siege to) the Vidhan Bhavan tomorrow to demand a complete loan waiver, fair price for farm produce, implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations, compensation for hailstorm-affected farmers among other things,” Kisan Gujar, president of the state council of AIKS, said.

Ready For Talks: Fadnavis to Agitating Farmers

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Sunday night said his government will talk to the farmers who have undertaken a `Long March’ to the city to press their various demands.

He also appealed agitators not to hold up the traffic on Monday so that students appearing for Std 10th exams in the city are not delayed.

“I have only made an appeal that they should not cause any problem to the traffic since it’s an exam day and more than one lakh students will get affected,” Fadnavis said, referring to the ongoing standard 10th exams.

This Govt Can’t Do Anything For You: Raj Thackeray to Farmers

Maharashtra Navnirman Sena chief Raj Thackeray on Sunday came out in support of the farmers who have reached here after undertaking a ‘Long March’ to Mumbai from Nashik to press their various demands including full loan waiver.

“Don’t forget your bleeding feet. These people (the BJP-led Maharashtra government) have shown you dreams, but have not kept their word,” Thackeray said.

Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation Supports Farmers Protest

The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) announced that it would provide water, toilets, and other amenities to the protesters at the farmers protest in Mumbai on 11 and 12 March.

The Municipal Corporation said that 40 mobile toilets, four water tankers, a stationary ambulance, and extra manpower would be provided to help the protesting farmers.

The Municipal Corporation added that pay-and-use toilets near Mumbai’s Azad Maidan have been instructed to provide free services for the next two days.

No Govt can Be Insensitive to Farmers’ Problems: RSS

Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) General Secretary Bhaiyyaji Joshi said there was a need to change the agrarian policy and the government has to ensure that farmers get a proper price for their produce.

However, he noted that there were a few obstacles in doing so.

Replying to a query on farmers’ issues, he said their problems should be understood sensitively and practical solutions found for them.

“No government can be insensitive on the questions related to farmers and it has to be sensitive towards farmers and find ways to address their problems. It is their job to think and find a solution,” Joshi told reporters at the Akhil Bharatiya Pratinidhi Sabha (ABPS) of the RSS in Nagpur.

NCP Joins Farmers’ Protest March, Mumbai

NCP MLA Jitendra Awhad and NCP female wing State President Chitra Wagh joined the farmers’ rally in Vikhroli, Mumbai, promising the support of the NCP to the farmers’ protest.

Aditya Thackeray Meets Protesting Farmers in Mumbai, Talks Reportedly Fail

Shiv Sena Chairperson Aditya Thackeray met the farmers of All India Kisan Sabha and interacted with them shortly after the 30,000 strong group of protesters entered Mumbai.

Thackeray said, “Shiv Sena is with the farmers, not just in principle, but on ground as well. We stand by them,” CNN News-18 reported.

CNN News-18 reported that the first round of talks had failed, with the leaders of the farmers’ protest stating that “no discussion had been held.”

Sitaram Yechury also hit out at the BJP Government in a tweet, stating that “farmers should get their rightful due.”

Will Fulfil Farmers’ Demands: Maharashtra Govt After Preliminary Meeting

Maharashtra Cabinet Minister Girish Mahajan assured that the government would look into the farmers’ demands and fulfill them, after holding a preliminary meeting with the leaders of the farmers association, the All India Kisan Sabha, CNN News-18 reported.

“The government will look into the demands of the farmers’ and fulfill them. A more comprehensive official delegation will meet with them tomorrow,” Mahajan told CNN-News18

Agitating Farmers to Meet Maharashtra Government Delegation on 12 March

All India Kisan Sabha state general-secretary Ajit Nawale said the protest march would continue on Monday despite a meeting with a delegation of the Maharashtra government, FirstPost reported.

Nawale added that the agitators will halt at Mumbai’s Somaiya Ground on the night of 11 March and resume their protests at 9 am on Monday 12 March. Their protest will take them from Ghatkopar to Sion, Dadar, and then Byculla, FirstPost added. The agitations will end at CST, the report added.

Raj Thackeray to Meet Protesting Farmers at 5 PM

CNN News-18 reported that MNS President Raj Thackeray will meet with the protesting farmers at 5 pm to hear out their demands.

The farmers also said, to CNN News-18, that they were open to dialogue, but were upset that no one from the government had met them over their demands in the past week.

They added that they were relieved that the government was responding more actively after they entered Mumbai.

Farmer March Enters Mumbai

The All India Kisan Sabha’s protest march has crossed Thane and Mulund areas and are now closer to the heart of Mumbai. Over 30,000 farmers are currently participating in the march, demanding complete loan waivers along with a number of other demands.

Traffic Advisory Issued in Mumbai

In view of this large incoming group of protestors, Mumbai Police has issued a traffic advisory and tightened security for Monday.

The Eastern Express Highway, southbound from Anandnagar toll plaza to the Somaiya ground, will remain closed on Monday for heavy and goods vehicles from 9 A M to 11 PM, Mumbai Police said in its advisory. These vehicles will alternately be diverted via Kalwa, Airoli, Vashi Creek and Vitava..

The Traffic Control Branch of the Mumbai Police also advised people to avoid travelling on the route of the march and use alternate routes (eg, LBS Road, Sion-Panvel Road, Thane-Belapur Road, etc).

35,000 Farmers Reach Thane

The All India Kisan Sabha’s (AIKS) protest march reaches Thane’s Anand Nagar. The AIKS is the farmer wing of Communist Party of India — Marxist (CPM). NDTV reports that the crowd has swollen to nearly 35,000 farmers with more joining along the way as they reach Mumbai.

The march will be attended by AIKS national president Ashok Dawale, CPM MLA JP Gavit, state president Kisan Gujar and working president Arjun Ade among others.

Ajit Navale, AIKS General Secretary, speaking to PTI[Shiv Sena leader Eknath] Shinde has welcomed the protestors in Thane district and extended support to the demands of the farmers. He said he was conveying the message of Sena president Uddhav Thackeray. Similarly, Abhijit Jadhav, an emissary of MNS chief Raj Thackeray, also met us and got me in touch with the MNS chief over the phone. The MNS too has extended support to our demands.

Why Are Thousands of Farmers Marching Towards Mumbai?

The Mumbai traffic police have already begun issuing traffic diversion plans, as the financial capital of India braces itself for over 30,000 farmers who are marching towards the city on Monday, 12 March. Hailing from Maharashtra’s most farmer suicide-prone districts, the group has been walking for four days, intending to cover 180 kilometres on foot from Nashik to Mumbai to convey their demands to the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government.

Proper implementation of the loan waiver scheme and implementation of the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission – these are the key demands of the farmers.

The farmers, who will reach Thane on Saturday, 10 March, are planning to arrive in Mumbai on Monday and ‘gherao’ the Maharashtra Assembly. The number of protesters is likely to swell by the time the group reaches Mumbai.

But what prompted them to hit the roads now? This is definitely not an overnight phenomenon.

Were the Political Promises Fulfilled?

After facing droughts for four consecutive years and subsequent crop failure, farmers across Marathwada and Vidarbha region turned to the state government to waive their loans. Forced to budge under pressure from farmers’ groups and the Opposition, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced a historic loan waiver in June 2017 under the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana.

At the time of the announcement, the chief minister had claimed that Rs 34,020 crores would be allocated for the scheme. Not all farmers were eligible for full loan waiver. Those eligible to avail the scheme were clubbed into three categories –

1. Those who can avail full loan waiver

2. Those who were eligible to get an incentive amount

3. Those eligible for a one-time settlement

With the Central government refusing to lend a helping hand, the entire cost has to be borne by the state government. As of 6 March, Rs 13,782 crore have been handed out as loan waivers to 35.68 lakh farmers. At the time of announcement, 89 lakh farmers were expected to benefit from the scheme.

While farmers lashed out against the delay in implementing the loan waiver scheme and the many conditions placed on the beneficiaries, the Opposition too criticised the Fadnavis-led BJP government over the issue.

Tracking the Protest March

The 30,000 protesters have reached Bhiwandi in Thane district on Saturday, 10 March, after they left from Nashik on Wednesday.

The protesting farmers are likely to reach Mumbai at 10 am on 12 March.

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