Thousands of farmers have been marching from Dindori in Maharashtra's Nashik district to cover 200kms and reach Mumbai to draw the government's attention to a 17-point charter demand including the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for onions, the appropriate price for agricultural produce, electricity bill waiver for farmers, speedy compensation for crops losses due to the unseasonal rains and forest land rights.
Drone footage of the same has now gone viral. The 'Long March' has been organised under the leadership of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) for thousands of farmers and unorganised sector workers from Dindori.
Around 10,000 farmers, ASHA and migrant workers, on March 13, joined the march launched by the CPI(M)’s All India Kisan Samiti (AIKS). Led by Dr Ashok Dhawale, member of the CPI(M) Politburo; former MLA Jiva Pandu Gavit; Dr Ajit Navale of the AIKS; Uday Narkar, secretary of the Maharashtra state committee of the CPI(M); and others, the march saw participants carrying red flags of the CPI(M) and placards with slogans like “Give MSP to onions” written on them. The farmers poured onions on the road to register their protest.
Nashik is one of the biggest hubs of onion cultivation in the country. However, prices of kitchen staple have crashed in Maharashtra, resulting in farmers getting very little for their produce.
The farmers are seeking financial relief of ₹ 600 per quintal from onion growers and remunerative prices for crops like cotton, soybean, tur and green gram which have seen a slide in prices due to unnatural rains and other natural calamities.
They are also demanding a 12-hour uninterrupted electricity supply and a write-off on all power bills for agricultural consumers along with a complete loan waiver.
Farmers are also seeking a hike in pensions under schemes like old age pensions as the AIKS demands the restoration of the old pension scheme (OPS) for the estimated 1.7 million state government employees.
“We will meet Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in Mantralaya tomorrow. Former MLA JP Gavit who is leading the march, All India Kisan Sabha state general secretary Ajit Nawale will be part of the delegation,” Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) national vice president DL Karad told PTI.
The protesters had met district guardian minister Dada Bhuse as well.
Gavit said, “Although CPI(M) is not in power in the state as well as the Centre, we are fighting for people’s problems with the support of people. We will not do anything that will cause problems to the general public.” After reaching Nashik city, the marchers will take a night halt on the ground opposite the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS), the organisers said.
A 2018 rerun
In 2018, a similar ‘Long March’ from Nashik to Mumbai was led by the CPI(M), Kisan Sabha and other like-minded organisations over various demands, including an unconditional loan waiver and transfer of forest land to tribal farmers who have been tilling it for years. Thousands of farmers participated in it. After it reached Mumbai, the government – then led by Devendra Fadnavis – had accepted their demands, following which the protest was called off.
(with PTI inputs)