Protesting farmers and tribals, who were on their way to Mumbai from the Nashik district of Maharashtra, called off their long march on Saturday after an assurance from the government to fulfill their demands and execute related orders. With red flags in their hands, the march had started on foot from Dindori town, located around 195 km away from Mumbai, on March 12 demanding relief of Rs 600 per quintal to onion growers hit by price crash, twelve-hour uninterrupted power supply to farmers, and waiver of farm loans. They had reached Thane district's Vasind town, around 80 km from Mumbai. On Friday, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde told the Assembly that onion cultivators will be given a financial relief of Rs 350 a quintal and appealed to them to call off the protest.
"Our demands have been met. All the demands by the farmers were taken into consideration in the state legislature and collectors and tehsildars have been issued orders. We received calls from our activists that work (implementation of the government order) has begun. So we have decided to call off the march," Communist Party of India (Marxist) MLA Vinod Nikole said. He said the participants have started heading back to their homes, and the remaining people will leave by Saturday evening or Sunday. A 58-year-old participant in the long march died on Friday. The deceased Pundalik Ambo Jadhav was a resident of a village near Dindori in Nashik.
"After having dinner around 8 pm, Jadhav vomited and again started feeling uneasy. He was rushed to the Shahapur hospital where doctors declared him brought dead," an official said on Saturday. The Maharashtra government had on Friday accepted most of the demands of farmers. CM Shinde, Deputy Chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, ministers, and top government officials had held talks with the farmers' representatives to resolve the issue on Thursday. Shinde had also informed the House that he had held discussions with a farmers' delegation on 14 points, including forest rights, encroachment of forest land, transfer of land belonging to temple trusts, and grazing grounds to cultivators for farming.
He had said a cabinet sub-committee will be set up to monitor appeals and claims related to the demand for forest land up to four hectares in possession of cultivators. The panel will prepare a report in a month. The committee will monitor the pending claims of farmers under the Forest Rights Act, the chief minister said, adding former MLA Jeeva Pandu Gavit and legislator Vinod Nikole, both belonging to the Communist Party of India (Marxist), will be members of the committee. Meanwhile, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) which spearheaded the 'long march' protest claimed that among other demands, the state government has agreed to waive loans of more than 88,000 farmers who didn't benefit from earlier such schemes.
The AIKS has received a copy of the orders issued by the government to the concerned authorities, it said and hailed farmers for participating in the protest. "The AIKS-led Kisan long march in 2018 had caught the imagination of people and had instilled confidence in all democratic sections by forcing the then BJP-led state government to accept almost all demands," it said. The AIKS further said that in 2023, poor farmers, a large number of them adivasis, with women leading from the front, have forced the BJP-Shiv Sena (faction led by Eknath Shinde) government to bow down and accept our demands. "This victory will inspire militant struggles against the anti-people BJP government and its pro-corporate policies. Coming just a fortnight before the Mazdoor Kisan Sangharsh rally at Delhi, it will also inspire the working class and the peasantry to come out in big numbers in all the forthcoming struggles," it said.
Meanwhile, Thane district collector Ashok Shingare on Saturday visited the site where the protesting farmers were camping at Vasind village and handed them a letter on behalf of the government of having met all their demands. An official release said special arrangements were made for halting the express and other trains at Vasind railway station to enable the participants of the long march to travel to their homes, the release added.