The farmers called off their protest on Monday after the Maharashtra government, on the back foot over the ‘long march’ by 30,000 of the state’s poorest agriculturists, accepted most of their demands.
Under pressure after the protesting farmers trooped into south Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on Monday, after walking the more than 180-km distance from Nashik in seven days, the state government accepted all their nine demands.
The government, which was late to react to the protesting farmers, changed its strategy after realising on Sunday night that the march was gaining political traction, with all the Opposition parties coming together to corner the BJP-led government.
The main demands accepted by the government include transferring rights of forest land cultivated by tribal farmers and relaxation of certain conditions in the farm loan-waiver scheme.
The state has now agreed to transfer the forest land to the original tillers, under the Forest Rights Act, 2006, within six months.
It also accepted the demand to extend the waiver cut-off date to June 30, 2017 from June 30, 2016 and granting a waiver to those with pending loans from 2001 instead of 2009. It also accepted the demand that besides crop loans, term loans taken by agriculturists for polyhouses and agriculture shed nets up to ?1.50 lakh will also be considered.
“The march comprised of about 90% landless tribals, who mainly wanted the forest land they have been tilling for years to be transferred to them. We will complete the process in the next six months,” said chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, outside the state legislature. He said the government was positive about the relaxation of norms related to the loan waiver so that farmers, who did not get the benefits during 2008 waiver were accommodated.
The state gave a written assurance to the farmers’ leaders after a three-hour discussion between them and a ministerial committee headed by Fadnavis. They were also assured that the six-member committee comprising of senior ministers will hold meetings on a regular basis to ensure timely compliance.
According to official figures, 1.54 lakh tribals have been given a land parcel of 3.56 lakh hectares. There are another one lakh claims or appeals pending under the Forest Right Act before the 3-tier committee at village, tehsil and district level.
The delegation was also assured that farmers with outstanding loans between 2001 and 2009 and those left out of the 2008 waiver, will now be eligible for a waiver. “We have succeeded in making the government listen to our pleas. Your march has helped us to achieve this. However, our struggle for seeking a complete loan waiver for farmers will continue,’’ said Ajit Nawale, secretary of the AIKS.
The state government’s written assurances were read out by farmers’ leaders in the presence of senior Communist Party of India(Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury as well as state ministers and members of the state committee.
Addressing the farmers, Ashok Dhawale, President, AIKS said a majority of the demands were met. “We wanted a written assurance and that was done. We wanted a time frame for implementation of our demands and even that was agreed and thirdly, the government went a step further and said all the demands will be tabled in the state legislature,” said Dhawale.
The Congress, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) as well as BJP ally Shiv Sena extended their support to the farmers’ demand, which also put pressure on the government that was initially reluctant to talk to the farmers’ leaders.
The government also arranged for special trains and state transport buses to ferry the protesting farmers back to their home districts.