On November 14, 2018, the AIKS Nashik district council led a massive 25,000-strong district-wide peasant rally to the Nashik district collectorate to demand urgent measures for drought relief and the implementation of the written assurances given by the chief minister after the AIKS-led Kisan Long March eight months ago. The rally comprised peasants in large numbers from nine tehsils of Nashik district. This rally was held just two days after the AIKS statewide Farmers Rights Convention that was held in Mumbai.
A month earlier, from October 10 onwards, the CPI(M), AIKS and other mass fronts had led a day-and-night mahapadav (siege) of over 30,000 people for one to four days each at seven tehsil centres in Thane-Palghar districts on the same two issues. That report has already appeared in these columns earlier.
The huge AIKS rally at Nashik started from the Golf Club Maidan, saluted the statue of the legendary Communist cultural and literary artiste, Comrade Anna Bhau Sathe, and culminated in a public meeting by saluting the statue of Dr B R Ambedkar at Shivaji Road.
The main demands of the rally were: declare Nashik as a drought-hit district; give Rs 50,000 per hectare to the peasants as compensation for severe crop losses; provide for drinking water, work under MNREGA and fodder for cattle; start the scheme long-proposed by the AIKS to lift and direct water from the west-flowing rivers to the Marathwada region that is chronically the worst affected by drought; immediately and stringently implement the Forest Rights Act (FRA); give complete loan waiver and electricity bill waiver to drought-hit farmers; implement the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission including that of MSP at one and a half times the entire cost of production; and give pension at Rs 5000 per month to agricultural workers and to poor and middle peasants.
The rally was led by AIKS president Ashok Dhawale, former state president J P Gavit, MLA, state president Kisan Gujar, state office bearers Savliram Pawar, Subhash Choudhari, Uday Narkar, Sunil Malusare and Irfan Shaikh, DYFI state vice president Indrajit Gavit and chairperson of the Surgana Panchayat Samiti and AIDWA leader Suvarna Gangode. All of them addressed the gathering, lambasted the BJP state government for its broken promises and called for mass mobilisation for the Kisan Mukti March in Delhi on November 29-30.
A delegation led by J P Gavit, MLA, met the district collector, submitted its charter of demands and held an hour-long discussion. The district collector agreed to immediately implement the demands concerning drought and FRA that fell in his purview and to send the others to the state government for necessary action.
This AIKS rally got front page photographic publicity in all newspapers and in TV channels.