Over 35,000 farmers from across Maharashtra, who embarked on a ‘Long March’ from Nashik on March 6 to press their various demands, arrived at Azad Maidan early on Monday.
Apart from the Opposition parties, the Shiv Sena, a partner in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition, has also vocally supported the agitation.
The state government reached out to farmers, promising to meet their demands, but farmers’ leaders said they will press on with the protest at Vidhan Bhavan on Monday.
Here are the live updates:
2.45pm: Maharashtra Congress chief Ashok Chavan speaks to farmers, calls the need for the agitation unfortunate. “This has never happened in Maharashtra, where farmers were forced to take this step. How many more suicides will it take to give relief to farmers,” he asks.
2.35pm: Senior Congress leaders Ashok Chavan, Manikrao Thakre and Sanjay Nirupam arrive at Azad Maidan.
2.30pm: AIMIM legislator Waris Pathan addresses farmers, promises his party will raise the issue at every possible forum.
2.23pm: Samajwadi Party chief Abu Azmi speaks to farmers at Azad Maidan, praises Shiv Sena founder Bal Thackeray and asks Uddhav to emulate him. “Balasaheb never bowed against anyone in his lifetime. It is good Uddhav has declared support, but he should shun power like Balasaheb did as this government is anti-farmer,” he says.
2.01pm: Three to four farmers collapse due to fatigue and heat, taken to JJ hospital in an ambulance.
1pm: Farmers’ delegation reaches Vidhan Bhavan. The delegation includes Ajit Nawale, Jiva Pandu Gavit, Narsayya Adam and Ashok Dhawale.
12.55pm: Farmer leader and Kalwan MLA Jiva Pandu Gavit contradicts the government, says it did not engage in a discussion with the farmers before the march. The first communication came from the government only on Friday, the fourth day of the march.
12.35pm: “The government took the farmers’ march lightly. They thought it will not come to Mumbai. This march has the capacity to shake the foundations of the government. The MNS, Shiv Sena, NCP and Congress have supported the march, but it is not a political ploy, just a support at a humanitarian level for our adivasi farmers,” says NCP legislator Sunil Tatkare, speaking in the Legislative Council.
12.04pm: There is no question of compromise, says Nawale, who is at Azad Maidan. “This is not a political issue. The government must respect farmers. We have marched more than 100km and will go back only when all our demands are fulfilled.”
11.59am: Water resources minister Girish Mahajan, also guardian minister of Nashik, says 80% of their demands will be met. The committee of ministers will meet once a week and ensure time-bound compliance of demands.
11.50am: BEST Undertaking diverts traffic on six routes via DN Road as the traffic police have shut Mahapalika Marg for traffic.
11.32am: The government is positive about all demands made by the farmers, the CM says, adding that the government had tried to persuade the farmers not to take out a march, but that they were determined. Girish Mahajan, water resources minister and guardian minister of Nashik, had met the organisers ahead of the march.
11.30am: Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis says the minsters’ committee, led by him, will meet the farmers’ delegation at 1pm at Vidhan Bhavan.
11.25am: Ajit Nawale, state president of Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, reaches Azad Maidan. “They have given us a time of 12 noon, and we will be at Vidhan Sabha at 12. If they try any tricks on us, we will start a hunger strike here at Azad Maidan. If anyone dies during that strike, it is Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis’ fault,” he said. “We will do gherao. If the police try to stop us, we will do a hunger strike at the spot we are stopped at.”
11.17am: Senior NCP leader Ajit Pawar says that if the government had held a discussion with the farmers in Nashik, they would not have been forced to march 180 km to Mumbai. “The government will be responsible for any law-and-order situation as it has failed to handle the situation properly,” Pawar says.
11.15am: Debate on the farmers’ march underway in Assembly. Opposition slams government for the delay in responding to the protesting farmers.
11am: More and more farmers arrive at Azad Maidan, the crowd gathered is swelling.
10.45am: A farmer Nathu Nivrutti Udaar from Ganesh vllage, Trimbakeshwar, walks around Azad Maidan carrying a solar panel on his head, so as to help other farmers recharge their mobile phones.
10.35am: A meeting between a group of ministers, led by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, and a delegation of farmers is expected to take place around 2pm at Vidhan Bhavan. It has been postponed slightly for the condolence motion following the demise of Congress leader Patangrao Kadam and for filing of nominations for Rajya Sabha.
10.25am: “We have good support from Shiv Sena’s Aaditya Thackeray. And even Raj Thackeray, who came and met us. It has upped our morale. We feel that pressure from them may make the government agree to our demands,” says Sitaram Pawar, secretary, Kisan Mahasabha.
10.15am: Though we have political differences with Left parties, we are supporting this farmers’ march, says the Shiv Sena. The loan waiver announced by the state government has not reached farmers effectively. This farmers’ ire will destroy the government, says the Sena in its mouthpiece ‘Saamana’.
9.30am: Heavy police presence in and around south Mumbai, especially Azad Maidan. Team of State Reserve Police Force and Riot Control Force also deployed. The Mumbai police said all farmers will not be allowed to march from Azad Maidan.
9.20am: Live performances have started at Azad Maidan. Around 100 farmers from Pangarbari village, Sukana taluka, Nashik, are performing the traditional Waghya Murali dance, a tribute to God Khandoba (a manifestation of Shiva) in Jejuri. Farmers said it is not for entertainment but just a way to keep the atmosphere upbeat.
9am: Medicines are being distributed to farmers who are currently at Azad Maidan by staffers from Thane civil hospital. Dr Sanjay Carole, medical officer of Thane civil hospital, said: “I have been here since morning and about 50 people have come for treatment. They are getting treated mostly for pain in the legs, sores and boils on legs as many of them have been walking barefoot. Also, for headaches and heat strokes. Our van has followed farmers from Thane.” In a while, the farmers will start their march to Vidhan Bhavan.
8.50am: Comrade Arjun Ade, chairman of Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha, said: “My brothers have been walking for four days now, from Nashik, Solapur, Sangli. Now, there are more people coming by morning trains from all over Maharashtra. The government makes big promises, but does not implement them. There is a GR for loan waiver, but our loans have not been cancelled. We demand that the GR be implemented today.”
8.45am: “There are about 75,000 farmers at Azad Maidan. We expect the number to reach 1 lakh before we march towards Vidhan Bhavan at noon,” says Shankar Shedam, joint secretary, Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha.
8.20am: The farmers’ demands include a complete waiver on farm loans and fair prices for their produce.
8.10am: The farmers, led by Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), have reached Azad Maidan. They will proceed to Vidhan Bhavan later in the day.
7.50am: No road closure or diversions due to Farmers’ Morcha now: Amitesh Kumar, joint commissioner of police (traffic) told ANI.