Before reaching their destination, farmers camped at the Thane-Mumbai border this morning. "We expect the number to reach 1 lakh before we march towards Vidhan Bhavan at noon", says Shankar Shedam, joint secretary, Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha.
Finally, the Maharashtra government seems to have woken up to the plight of the farmers who are planning to gherao the state Assembly on Monday to press for their demands, including complete waiver of loans.
Farmers leader Ajit Nawale said that among the major demands are implementation of the farm loans waiver announced in June 2017, (after farmers in the state went on a "strike"), then make the farmers completely debt-free, besides other demands. Moreover, one round of farmers' protests had already taken place in June past year, culminating in the announcement of a loan waiver, and with recent figures indicating an 8.3 per cent drop in the agriculture sector, the fresh protests are likely to put the BJP in a further bind.
Signalling a softening of the stance, Dhawale said the AIKS wants to find a feasible solution for the issues faced by the farmers. Complete loan waiver for the farmers and implementation of the Forest Rights Act are some of the important demands of the agitators. "They have given us a time of 12 noon, and we will be at Vidhan Sabha at 12".
Protesting farmers have demanded a change in the plan to link rivers in Nashik, Thane and Palghar to ensure that tribal lands are not submerged and water from the scheme be made available to these areas as well as other drought-prone districts, organisers said.
In order to avoid inconvenience to students appearing for the ongoing board examinations, the farmers abandoned their night's rest at Somaiya Grounds and started the march at 2 a.m.to reach the historic Azad Maidan at dawn. Team of State Reserve Police Force and Riot Control Force also deployed. Many farmers leaders said that it should not be considered as a communist protest as it is for the betterment of the farmers. Live: Maharashtra farmers' protestKumar said, "No road closure or diversions will happen due to Farmers' Morcha now".
"I haven't had any discussions with any of the leaders of the protest march".
Meanwhile, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) led by veteran Maratha leader Sharad Pawar is organising a protest rally in support of the farmers today in Nashik. "But they should withdraw the protest", said Mr Mahajan.