The Maharashtra government has accepted most of the demands made by farmers who are marching from Nashik to Mumbai and onion cultivators will be given financial relief of Rs 350 a quintal, Chief Minister Eknath Shinde told the state Assembly on Friday and urged the protesters to end their nearly week-long stir.
Earlier in the day, representatives of the agitating farmers and tribals said their 200km 'long march' has been halted for now, but they will resume their walk to Mumbai if the state government does not come out with concrete steps to address their demands. The foot march by thousands of farmers and tribals, which started from Dindori town in Nashik district in North Maharashtra on Sunday last, has reached Vasind town, around 80km from Mumbai The chief minister informed the House that he had held discussions with a farmers' delegation over 14 points, including forest rights, encroachment of forest land, transfer of land belonging to temple trusts and grazing grounds to cultivators for farming. Appealing to the farmers to withdraw their long march, Shinde said the decisions taken will be implemented immediately. Onion growers, facing losses due to low prices of the commodity and damage to crop by unseasonal rains, will be given Rs 350 per quintal as financial relief, he said.
Shinde said a cabinet sub-committee will be set up to monitor appeals and claims related to the demand of forest land up to four hectares in possession of cultivators. The panel will prepare a report in a month. The panel will monitor the pending claims of farmers under the Forest Rights Act, Shinde said, adding former MLA Jeeva Pandu Gavit and sitting MLA Vinod Nikole, both belonging to the Communist Party of India (Marxist) will be part of the committee. The farmers' protest was non-political in nature and they had genuine demands, the chief minister said.
Earlier, CPI(M) MLA Nikole said the march of farmers and tribals has been halted after assurance from the government, but the agitation will resume if they do not see any concrete steps to address their issues. We have halted the long march. But we need to see concrete action from the government that our issues will be addressed or else we will head to Mumbai, said the legislator. He said the agitators will stay put till the government issues official order on their demands.
The cultivators started their march in support of their demands, which included Rs 600 per quintal relief to onion farmers, 12-hour uninterrupted power supply to farmers and waiver of farm loans, among others. Meanwhile, the chief minister said that the honorarium of anganwadi workers and ASHA activists will be raised and 20,000 vacant posts of anganwadi workers will be filled.