Farmers March

Farmers go on an indefinite hunger strike as they press for their demands in Bhubaneswar March 12, 2018. In Maharashtra, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced that, following the “Long March” undertaken by farmers to press for demands, the government has agreed to meet most of their requests. (IANS photo)

MUMBAI — The grueling 200 km, six-day long 'Long March' undertaken by over 35,000 farmers ended on a positive note, with the Maharashtra government conceding most demands March 12 evening.

The decision was announced at a rally addressed by state ministers along with farmers' leaders at Azad Maidan where farmers arrived at dawn March 12, after which the All India Kisan Sabha leaders announced that the agitation was withdrawn.

"We held very cordial discussions and have conceded most of the demands of the tribals, laborers and farmers who took part in the march," Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis announced here.

According to a Kisan Sabha leader, the main demands pertained to complete implementation of the loan waiver scheme announced last year, implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and compensation for victims of damage to cotton crops following a bollworm infestation and the unseasonal rains and hailstorms.

On implementing the Forest Rights Act, Fadnavis said that all pending claims and appeals shall be cleared in six months.

Regarding the farm loans waiver, the government said it had already distributed funds to banks for 46.52 lakh farmers and 35.51 lakh farmers had been disbursed their loan waiver amounts.

On the implementation of the M.S. Swaminathan Commission report, he said the government would pursue it with the Center.

Additionally, farmers who were not entitled to the 2008 loan waiver scheme shall be brought under the ambit of the current Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Shetkari Sanman Yojana, and farmers from 2001 onwards would now receive benefits.

Similar satisfactory outcomes were reported for other demands, including water projects, the Sanjay Gandhi Niradhar Yojana, the Indira Gandhi Old Age Pension Scheme, fixing of milk rates and pending issues with ration cards to ensure farmers and poor get rations at fair price shops.

Kisan Sabha leaders including Ajit Nawale expressed satisfaction over the outcome.

Earlier, top political leaders including Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar, Congress leader Ashok Chavan, Samajwadi Party leader Abu Asim Azmi, Communist Party India-(Marxist), general secretary Sitaram Yechury and social crusader Anna Hazare attacked the government for ignoring the case of the farmers.

"Any party which ignores the cause of farmers will not survive," thundered Yechury.

"Today, if the farmers demands are not conceded, they will shake up the state and the Center, and install a government of their choice," he said.

The 35,000-plus farmers, including men, women and youth, who halted under the scorching sun at the historic Azad Maidan since March 12 dawn will prepare to return to their homes later in the night.

Marching under the AIKS banner, the CPI-M farmers wing, many sporting red caps, carried red party flags or banners, and their lunch wrapped in newspapers. They have walked almost 200 km for nearly 150 hours since March 6 and reached Mumbai late March 11 night.

Some had swollen eyes and blistered feet and wore torn clothes.

All major political parties supported the agitation, with Congress president Rahul Gandhi terming it "an unprecedented show of strength," and urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Fadnavis to shed their ego and concede the farmers' legitimate demands.

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