THE long march by kisans from Nashik to Mumbai has been a historic success. The march by 25,000 kisans began in Nashik on March 6 and traversed nearly 200 kms before arriving at Mumbai on March 12. The numbers kept swelling and by the time Mumbai gathering took place, there were 50,000 people in the march.
The kisan march was unique in the way it was conducted with discipline, determination and a collective display of peasant power. The sight of a sea of red flags moving in a massive procession captured the attention of people everywhere and the national and regional media took this visual message to all corners of the country. No mass protest in recent time has had the nationwide impact as the kisan march.
In Maharashtra, all sections of political opinion, except the BJP extended support to the march and the demands of the peasants. The ordinary people of Mumbai and various social and voluntary organisations provided food, water and even footwear to the marchers.
The long march has concluded with a significant victory. A team of ministers led by the chief minister negotiated with the Kisan Sabha leadership and an agreement was reached on most of the major demands. The agreement concerns the implementation of the Forest Rights Act and ensuring that the tribal people who have been cultivating the land over the years are given pattas, all applications and appeals to be settled in six months; the loan waiver scheme for farmers has been extended in scope; committee to consider remunerative prices; assurance regarding river linking proposal which adversely affects the tribal people in Nashik, Palghar and Thane districts; ensuring supply of rations and compensation for losses suffered due to pest attacks on cotton crops in the Vidarbha and Marathwada region.
This victory has been welcomed by people in general, especially, since the demands of the tribal peasantry who are the poorest sections among farmers have been fulfilled.
The long march agreement has come in the background of the earlier massive peasant struggle in Maharashtra when an eleven-day strike was conducted from July 1-11 last year. At that time, the Maharashtra government had agreed to some of the demands, including loan waiver. But it failed to implement its promise. The current struggle should be seen as a continuation of the overall struggle and movement of the farmers in Maharashtra on their basic demands of implementation of the Swaminathan Commission formula of cost of production plus 50 per cent as the price of their produce and loan waiver for those indebted due to the agrarian distress.
In Rajasthan, the Kisan Sabha is conducting a similar struggle to force the government to fulfill the agreement made last year which it has been backtracking from. The Maharashtra victory will instill confidence and enthuse the peasant movements all over the country.
The leadership of the Maharashtra Kisan Sabha has to be congratulated for the superb manner in which they organised and provided the logistics for this historic march. Ultimately, it was the grit and determination of the thousands of men and women, particularly the adivasi peasants and labourers, which resulted in this brilliant victory.
(March 14, 2018)