Monday, 25 March 2019

Kisan Long March: Social Media agog with Mumbai’s welcome to farmers

MUMBAI: The 35000 farmers who marched into 180 kilometers from Nashik to Mumbai have left, through two special trains run for them, to ensure their safe return home. But not before pictures of their blistered feet and anguish has taken social media across India by storm. The fact that they decided to march into Mumbai at night, to avoid any disruption in the smooth progress of the state Senior Secondary exams have left a country touched with their compassion and sensitivity, even as they deplored their light which has forced them out of their homes.

What has remained with the people is the generosity and hospitality of Mumbaikars in offering these farmers food, medical care and hospitality. Across the city, individuals, resident welfare associations, religious groups and political parties lined up the roads to welcome them and feed them.  “Since Sunday there has been so much help that an entire truck we had brought is still full of food and will last us another four days,” said Kisan Gujar, state president of the All India Kisan Sabha. The farmers association, which is part of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), has organized the protest to demand loan waivers, the implementation of the Forest Rights Act, updated land records, and better crop prices.

At major junctions on the highway, both rural and urban residents had come out in support of the farmers, supplying them with water. When the protestors reached Mumbai in the blazing humid heat on Sunday, this scaled up, with various groups not only distributing water, but also fresh poha and biscuit packets. Resident welfare associations called for water tankers, in case the farmers needed more water.

The six-day march by Maharashtra’s farmers ended with a promise from the state government, at least on paper, to fulfill their demands, which included a loan waiver and rights over their land. The farmers, who had set out on a 180-km journey on foot to Mumbai on March 6, called off their protest on March 12 after the Devendra Fadnavis-led Maharashtra government gave them a written assurance that it would look into most of their concerns in two months.

Fadnavis had announced a loan waiver scheme last year, but it was reportedly beset by technical problems. His government  agreed to expand the ambit of the scheme on Monday.

The farmers have also demanded proper implementation of minimum support prices for farm produce apart from crop insurance and credit schemes and measures to improve irrigation.

Maharashtra’s arid belts of Vidarbha and Marathwada have been known to be a hotbed of farmer’s suicides and have been reeling under a series of crises for many years now, including drought, pest attacks and erratic weather conditions. While this chapter of the farmers’ struggle has ended in success, it remains to be seen if the government will come through on its promises.

Dr. Shirin Abbas is the Bureau Chief "TheIndiaObserver.Com". She is a world-renowned journalist, winner of several national and international awards for her contribution to Media Research.The first recipient of the prestigious British Chevening Scholarship for Print Journalism in 1999 from her state of Uttar Pradesh. Under the same, she studied at the School of Media, Communication, and Design at the University Of Westminster, London and interned with The Irish Times, Dublin. She has been a journalist for over three decades, working at several national English dailies in North India. She completed her PhD. in Mass Communication in 2016.

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