At least 30,000 farmers who began a protest march from Nashik on Tuesday reached Mumbai on Saturday.
From Monday morning, the farmers – led by the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha – plan to block access to the state legislature building, where the Budget Session is under way, until their demands are met, the Hindustan Times reported.
Their demands include a complete waiver of loans and electricity bills, and the implementation of the Swaminathan Commission’s recommendations on providing minimum support prices and safeguarding the interests of small farmers.
The march has already led to traffic snarls in highways connecting Mumbai, Thane and Nashik. The Mumbai Traffic Police has issued advisories and diversions to avoid congestions, and security arrangements have been made.
Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis has called a meeting of officials on Monday to discuss the farmers’ demands.
Opposition parties have spoken in support of the farmers, who have marched 180 km to Mumbai, NDTV reported. Senior Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde met some of the protestors late on Friday, when they had stopped near Thane. Shinde, who is part of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Cabinet in the state had said he was there on behalf of his party, not as a minister of the state government.
President of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha Ashok Dhawle met Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan, who assured him that he would take the farmers’ demands to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis. Dhawle, in turn, assured the government of a peaceful march, NDTV reported.
Consecutive droughts, variable rainfall, increasing debt, pink bollworm pest attacks, and recurring hailstorms have taken a huge toll on the farmers of Marathwada and Vidarbha. 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.