by Peerzada Arshad Hamid
NEW DELHI, March 10 (Xinhua) -- About 400,000 farmers in India's western state of Maharashtra are currently on a protest march to demand loan waiver, implementation of government commissions report on farmers and compensation for crop damage.
Led by farmer's outfit Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha (All India Peasants Union), the farmers started the peaceful march on Tuesday from Nasik city, about 170 km northeast of state capital city Mumbai. They are headed for Mumbai city.
On Saturday, the farmers reached Bhiwandi in Thane district.
"We intend to reach Mumbai city on Sunday evening in a bid to seek attention of government towards our plight," said Tola Ram, a farmer who is attending the march.
"We the farmers in Maharashtra are struggling hard to cope with the agrarian crisis and natural calamities. Our demand is government should act to end our misery."
Braving hot sun, the farmers, wearing red caps and holding up red flags with the sickle and hammer symbol, are carrying on with their march stopping only for food and rest.
The farmers are carrying eatables along with them and stop to prepare food for themselves.
The farmers intend to assemble outside the building of Maharashtra legislature in Mumbai to get their demands heard Monday.
Currently, the budget session of Maharashtra state legislature is underway.
"We are demanding proper implementation of the loan waiver package announced by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis last year and the implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission," Devraj Gavin, another farmer said.
Swaminathan Commission has recommended that farmers should be paid one and a half times the cost of production for what they produce and the market selling price should be fixed on this basis.
According to Ajit Nawale, state general secretary of Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Sabha, 1,753 farmers have committed suicide in the state since local government announced a loan waiver package.
"The distressed farmers have come together demanding their rights and seek relief," Nawale said. "We want monetary assistance for crop damage due to last month's hailstorms and unseasonal rains."
The farmers are also demanding transfer of forest land that they have been cultivating since generations in their name, besides forceful acquisition of farm lands for development projects.
Political observers say the protest is likely to create trouble for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led local government in the state.