25,000 Farmers March From Nashik to Mumbai, Demand Complete Loan Waiver

The farmers plan to 'gherao' the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha after reaching Mumbai on March 12 to protest against the government’s “anti-farmer” policies.

Nashik: Nearly 25,000 farmers are marching from Nashik to Mumbai to protest against the government’s “anti-farmer” policies and press for various demands, including a complete loan waiver.

They plan to 'gherao' the Maharashtra Vidhan Sabha after reaching Mumbai on March 12, said Sunil Malusare of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which has organised the protest.

The farmers had started the 180-km ‘long march’ on Tuesday from the CBS chowk in Central Nashik and are walking on the Mumbai-Agra National Highway.

Apart from loans, they have also demanded a waiver of electricity bills, and the implementation of the recommendations of Swaminathan Commission.

"We also want the state government to refrain from forceful acquisition of farm lands in the name of development projects like the super highway and the bullet train," AIKS secretary Raju Desle said.

The government had announced a loan waiver last year following unprecedented protests by farmers in various parts of the state. Desle claimed that as many as 1,753 farmers have killed themselves since the BJP-led state government announced the conditional farm loan waiver of Rs 34,000 crore.

AIKS national president Ashok Dhavle, local MLA J P Gavit and other leaders are leading the long march. Dhavle earlier alleged that the BJP government had betrayed the farmers by not honouring the assurances given to them.

"We will demand a complete change in the river linking scheme proposed to be implemented in Nashik, Thane and Palghar, so as to ensure that tribal villages are not submerged and water is made available to these districts and other drought-prone areas," he said.

Farmers are also demanding the transfer of forest land to those who have been tilling it for years and an increase in the compensation for peasants whose crops were damaged in the recent hailstorms and pink bollworm infestation.