The BJP-led Maharashtra government on Monday not only agreed to meet all demands of agitating farmers mostly from the state’s tribal belt but gave a written assurance to do so within six months.
The 30,000 distressed farmers who walked for five days from Nashik to Mumbai with a plan of laying a siege of the state Vidhan Sabha at Nariman Point returned satisfied in the evening on board two special trains organised by the railway ministry from the city’s main Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus to Bhusaval.
“Announcing the accord, cooperation minister Cahndrakant Patil tribals’ main demand that their ownership of forest land must be regularised would be complete with after examining the records.
The conditions for loan waiver would be relaxed for tribal farmers and they will be given new ration cards within six months.
The government who was under bitter attack from all parties including ally in power Shiv Sena also announced that the accord with Bharatiya Kisan Sabha will be placed in the state assembly on Tuesday.
On Monday, the government face a strong challenge from all sides as legislators condemned the government for ignoring small farmers from tribal belts across Maharashtra.
However, analysts say deft handling of the sensitive issue by the government virtually silenced its critics.
Earlier in the day, the protesters thronged the Azad Maidan with assertive placards with a clear warning to the government.
“Not mercy but we demand our rights” more than 30,000 distressed farmers most of them from tribal belts put up a show of strength in South Mumbai’s Azad Maidan. The venue looked like a red sea in the afternoon heat.
The protesting farmers from different parts of the state started their protest march—many of they without footwears and swollen feet— at Nashik on 6 March and covered the 180 km distance late Sunday evening.
The protesters were asked to give up their original plan to lay a seige to the state Vidhan Sabha which is now in sessio n to which they agreed in view of on going annual examinations of lakhs of students.
The long-march was halted at Azad Maidan even as a delegation of Bharatiya Kisan Sabha , the organiser, went to the state assembly to hold talks with the Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis who has formed a committee of ministers and legislators to discuss aggrieved farmers demands.
The charter of demands has three major points ~ a complete unconditional loan waiver for all, the proposed rivers connection plan in the state must not disturb the tribal belt and implementation of Swaminathan committee report.
The government has been receptive to their demands and the state CM admitted that “About 90 to 95 per cent are poor tribals who are fighting to protect their forest land and rights. The government is sensitive to their demands and will respond positively to their demand.”
Fadnavis claimed the government had been in contact with the marchers since 6 March when they were about to start their long-haul on feet from Nashik, The government’s efforts to dissuade them from protest march failed, admitted the CM. Minister for irrigation Mr Girish Mahajan and agriculture minister Pandurang Phundkar said most of the demands of tribals were just and legitimate and could be accepted by the government.
The farmers protest in its wake raised a political hue and cry in Maharashtra as opposition Congress, Nationalist Congress Party and ruling Shiv Sena launched a broadside against the Fadnavis government for “miserable” condition of farmers and farm labourers. A few of them todday threatened to give up food if the government refuses to give them in writing that their demands would be met.
The agitating farmers went ahead with their protest walk regardless of the CM Fadnavis’ announcement in the state assembly that his government had already deposited promised relief money in the bank accounts of more than 39 lakh farmers.
Many farmers backed by the Congress, NCP and Shv Sena want a blanket waiver without verifying the credentials of farmers who have applied for loan amnesty.