Maharashtra Farmers Continue ‘Long March’, Govt to Hold Talks on Wednesday

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MUMBAI – Maharashtra farmers continued their 175 km “long march’ to Mumbai for the second day on Tuesday even as the government said it would hold talks with a leaders’ delegation on Wednesday.

The farmers’ stir is spearheaded by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and comprises over 10,000 peasants walking in the blistering heat with banners, placards, posters and raising slogans en route.

En route the marchers were enthusiastically welcomed in various villages by the locals, offered food and water, and people expressed their support to the cause as they walked past.

Chief Minister Eknath Shinde and Deputy CM Devendra Fadnavis were slated to meet the farmers’ leaders on Tuesday, but the meeting was put off owing to the strike launched by state government employees demanding return to the Old Pension Scheme (OPS).

“We were informed that the meeting has been cancelled, but no reasons were given… Our march continues as usual,” AIKS Maharashtra General Secretary Dr Ajit Nawale told the media.

Slamming Shinde’s offer of giving an ex-gratia of Rs 300/quintal for onion growers, he said it was too meagre and the amount should be hiked to at least Rs 600/quintal, failing which the agitation would intensify.

“Unless the government talks to us, we may be compelled to block the Mumbai-Gujarat Highway, only then they will listen,” Nawale said.

Leader of Opposition Ajit Pawar and other Maha Vikas Aghadi (MVA) leaders have raised the matter in the Assembly and have rooted for the distressed farmers’ cause.

Congress state President Nana Patole, NCP state President Jayant Patil, Shiv Sena-UBT leaders like Bhaskar Jadhav and others have demanded that the government should give between Rs 500-Rs 700/quintal to the farmers reeling under a crisis owing to fallen prices.

From the government side, Nashik Guardian Minister Dada Bhuse said that at the Wednesday meeting, the CM and Deputy CM as well as concerned department secretaries shall be present to discuss the issues and resolve the farmers’ problems.

He expressed confidence that all the positive demands would be heard out and the needful would be done for the farmers.

On Sunday, the AIKS released its 17-point charter of demands which includes compensation for onion growers and MSP of Rs 2000/quintal from the next season, better prices for other crops like cotton, soybean, tur, green gram, milk, and related issues of ASHA workers, etc.

This is the third “long march” by farmers in the past five years – the first one was in 2018, later in 2019, and again this year. -IANS

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