Thousands of farmers in Maharashtra are marching from Nashik to Mumbai, demanding a complete waiver of loans and electricity bills, NDTV reported on Thursday. They are also demanding the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations on providing minimum support prices and safeguarding the interests of small farmers.
“We want the state government to refrain from forceful acquisition of farm lands in the name of development projects such as the super highway and tracks for bullet trains,” said All India Kisan Sabha Secretary Raju Desle. The All India Kisan Sabha is leading the protest march.
Almost 25,000 farmers started the 180-km march on Wednesday evening from the CBS Chowk in Nashik. They plan to protest at the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha on Monday.
The state’s economic survey revealed that lending by private moneylenders had increased by 28% in 2017 even as credit provided by cooperative banks declined, The Indian Express reported. “People are turning to private moneylenders as banks are turning them away,” said Kishore Tiwari, the head of the state government’s committee on farm distress. He fears there will be an increase in farmer suicides, pointing out that the state government’s efforts to reform its credit policy “has just remained on paper”. As many as 1,753 farmers have killed themselves since June 2017, Desle told NDTV.
Consecutive droughts, variable rainfall, increasing debt, pink bollworm pest attack, and recurring hailstorms have left the farmers of Marathwada and Vidarbha reeling. The crops of wheat, gram, sorghum, onion, grapes, oranges, and cotton were affected in 19 districts of the state during hailstorms.
The Maharashtra government had started disbursing the loan waiver amounts to farmers’ accounts in October 2017, four months after it had announced the scheme. The move was expected to benefit nearly 89 lakh farmers, but was plagued by technical difficulties.