As the long march of over 20,000 farmers from Nashik nears Mumbai, the Maharashtra state government is all set to hold talks with protesting Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (ABKS) leaders.
The march, which took off from Dindori in Nashik on Sunday is likely to reach Mumbai on March 20. The protestors entered the Thane district, the political turf of Chief Minister Eknath Shinde, on Wednesday. It took a halt at Kalamb village before proceeding to Mumbai on Thursday.
Many farmers are walking barefoot in temperatures hovering near 40 degrees Celsius.
While Shinde deputed ministers Dada Bhuse and Atul Save to hold talks with the agitating farmers on Wednesday, reports claim that the Chief Minister himself will meet the protesting farmers at 3 pm in Mantralaya on Thursday. Shinde will be accompanied by Deputy Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
"We discussed 14 issues that they flagged. We accepted their positions and agreed to many of their demands. We held detailed discussions with them. We requested the CPI and the protesting farmers to meet CM and Dy CM at the Mantralaya. They agreed to meet the chief minister and the deputy CM at 3 pm in Mantralaya tomorrow," Bhuse told reporters on Wednesday.
Save, who also held talks with the leaders, said a lot of their issues have been resolved. "Discussions were held on all the issues that the farmers raised. 40-50 per cent of their issues have been resolved and the rest will be resolved after meeting the CM, Dy CM tomorrow," he added.
Meanwhile, law enforcement has beefed up security to control the traffic to avoid the march causing inconvenience to people. "Considering the scale of protest, we deployed adequate policemen for maintaining law and order in the event of an emergency. As the foot march is being held from Nashik to Mumbai, we have deployed forces for controlling the traffic in two lines and avoid any inconvenience to commuters," said DCP Kiran Kumar Chavan.
Why are the farmers protesting?
The farmers have put forth several demands before the state government, including seeking financial aid for onion producers and buying their products through the National Agricultural Cooperative Marketing Federation of India (Nafed).
Other demands include full loan waiver, waiver of pending electricity bills and a 12-hour daily power supply. "We have started this march to draw the attention of the government towards our problems. We have put forward 14-15 demands and will hold discussions with the government about them," a protesting farmer told ANI.
The farmers are also seeking damages from government insurance companies for losses incurred due to unseasonal rains and other natural calamities.
The Maharashtra government on Monday announced an ex-gratia relief of Rs 300 per quintal to onion farmers severely affected by a steep fall in prices of the commodity. Prices of the kitchen staple have crashed in Maharashtra, resulting in farmers getting very little for their produce. Nashik district is a major hub of onion cultivation in the country.