MUMBAI: Azad Maidan in south Mumbai turned into a sea of red this morning as thousands of farmers, carrying red flags, converged here after walking around 180 km under the blazing sun over the last six days.
The farmers plan to surround the Assembly complex to press for their demands of an unconditional loan waiver, and transfer of forest land to tribal farmers who have been tilling it for years.
They reached Azad Maidan early today, after camping at KJ Somaiya Ground in Sion area.
The CPI(M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha, which is spearheading the protest, said it will consider what the government has to offer.
CPI(M) leader Ashok Dhawle said over 50,000 people have joined the protest.
“We will begin our rally after 11 am today so that students appearing for their Class 10 board exam don’t face any difficulties,” he said.
Tribals from Thane district have joined the farmers from Nashik district in the protest.
Maharashtra minister Girish Mahajan, who welcomed the march at Mulund in suburban Mumbai yesterday, said the government, which has met earlier demands by farmers, will consider their latest ones.
The opposition Congress, NCP, Maharashtra Navnirman Sena and also Shiv Sena, which is part of the BJP-led ruling alliance in the state, have extended support to the farmers’ demands. MNS chief Raj Thackeray and Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray met the farmers yesterday.
In November last year, the state government announced a farm loan waiver, terming it the “biggest loan waiver in Maharashtra’s history”.
Last month, state Governor Vidyasagar Rao told the state legislature that the government has transferred over Rs 12,000 crore into bank accounts of 31 lakh farmers.
Farmers also want the implementation of the MS Swaminathan Commission report, which says farmers should be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of production and the Minimum Support Price should be fixed keeping this in mind.
While there is no likelihood of all farmers being allowed to proceed to the Assembly complex from Azad Maidan, a delegation of farmer leaders will be allowed to meet Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.