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Maharashtra government agrees to farmers' demands on right to forest land, loan waiver

Maharashtra government agrees to farmers' demands on right to forest land, loan waiver

Around 35,000 farmers carrying red flags marched from Nashik to Mumbai demanding benefits from the government.

The BJP-led government in Maharashtra gave in to most demands of agitating farmers in Mumbai on Monday. A group of about 35,000 farmers walked down from Nashik to Mumbai to gherao the Vidhan Sabha and demand unconditional waiver of loans, electricity bills, and updated minimum support price, beside others.

Speaking to the reporters on Monday, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said: "A meeting was held with representatives of farmers and adivasis at Vidhan Bhawan and we have agreed to set up a committee to allot agricultural land to tribals. We have accepted almost all their demands."

The farmers led by the Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha termed this as a "historic struggle" and a "historic victory". The protest march saw support pouring in from political parties and people across the country.

What the farmers are fighting for

  • Unconditional waiver of loans as well as electricity bills for those who had borrowed between 2001 and 2008
  • Implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendations, including an announcement of minimum support price for agriculture produce
  • The tribal cultivators, who tilled forest land, wanted the land to be transferred to their names and implementation of the Forest Rights Act
  • Pension scheme for farmers

Reasons for agitation
  • Large amount of crops was destroyed due to unpredictable weather and poor rainfall
  • Though the state had announced a loan waiver scheme, the implementation has not been foolproof
  • In November 2017, the state government announced a farm loan waiver, terming it the 'biggest in Maharashtra's history'

Earlier in the day, Fadnavis, before meeting the farmers, had declared that his government was "sensitive and positive" towards their issues and will work on it. "Around 90 to 95 per cent of the participants are poor tribals. They are fighting for forest land rights. They are landless and can't do farming. The government is sensitive and positive towards their demands," he told the state Assembly during a discussion on the 'Long March' of agriculturists.

 

The farmers' march saw extensive support pouring in from locals as well as all major political parties, such as the Congress, Nationalist Congress Party, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (Raj Thackeray) and Shiv Sena. Congress President Rahul Gandhi tweeted: "The mammoth #FarmersMarchToMumbai is a stunning example of people's power. The Congress party stands with the Farmers & Tribals marching to protest against the Central & State Govts. I appeal to PM Modi and the CM to not stand on ego and to accept their just demands."

The farmers were ferried back to Nashik on a special train from Mumbai to Bhusawal.