Hundreds of thousands of farmers from 21 districts of Maharashtra gathered at Nashik on Saturday to begin a march to Mumbai, where they will hold a massive rally to protest against the new agricultural laws, reported NDTV. Nationalist Congress Party chief Sharad Pawar, whose party is a member of the ruling Maha Vikas Aghadi government, is expected to attend the demonstration on January 25.
Over 1,200 farmers in close to 90 vehicles reached the district under the banner of the All India Kisan Sabha’s Maharashtra unit, to begin their agitation. “This march is being held to support and expand the historic two month long farmers struggle in Delhi for the repeal of the three farm laws and for a central law to guarantee a remunerative MSP [minimum support price] and procurement all over the country,” AIKS National President Ashok Dhawale told The Indian Express.
The call for the rally was given by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, which is leading the protests in Delhi. The plan is to intensify and broaden the demonstrations by holding a host of events between January 23 to January 26, according to The Indian Express.
The farmers participating in the tractor rally will converge at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on January 24, where they will begin a three-day sit-in. On January 25, they plan to march to the Raj Bhavan, and submit a memorandum against the new reforms to Governor Bhagat Singh Koshiyari. On the next day, demonstrators will hoist the national flag at Azad Maidan on the occasion of Republic Day.
Farmers camping in the outskirts of the Capital also plan to intensify their protest on January 26 by organising a massive tractor rally in New Delhi during Republic Day celebrations. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court had declined a government petition to ban the event, following which the protestors approached the Delhi Police to work out a mutually acceptable solution.
Besides Pawar, the January 25 rally in Mumbai will also be attended by leaders of the other two parties in the ruling Maharashtra government, namely, Congress’ Maharashtra President Balasaheb Thorat and Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray, according to The Indian Express.
“Our main demands are that the three anti-farmer, anti-people and pro-corporate farm laws be repealed,” Dhawale said. “We want enactment of a central law guaranteeing remunerative MSP and procurement.”
Some of the other demands of the Maharashtrian farmers include, the withdrawal the Electricity Amendment Bill, repeal of the four Labour Codes, and the resumption of the implementation of the Mahatma Phule Loan Waiver Scheme for farmers, which had been suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic, Dhawale told The Indian Express.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping on the outskirts of Delhi for nearly 60 days, demanding the repeal of the three agricultural laws passed in September. The farmers believe that the new laws undermine their livelihood and open the path for the corporate sector to dominate agricultural. The government, on the other hand, maintains that the new laws will give farmers more options in selling their produce, lead to better pricing, and free them from unfair monopolies.
Farmer leaders on January 21 rejected an offer from the government to suspend the contentious laws for 18 months and set up a committee to look into their concerns about the legislations. Samyukta Kisan Morcha, a coalition of farmers’ unions, said they will settle for nothing less than a complete repeal of the laws.
The Centre, however, told farmers that this was the most it was willing to offer. Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar said the discussions could continue only if the farmers accept the Centre’s proposal.