Mumbai, Mar 10: At least 30,000 farmers led by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) have reached Bhiwandi, located 40 kms away from Mumbai, covering the massive chunk of their protest march which was launched from Nashik earlier in the week.
The protesters have planned to gherao the state legislature building on March 12, when the Assembly has scheduled the discussion on the fourth annual Budget tabled by the Devendra Fadnavis-led government.
The farmers began the 180-km long march from Nashik on Tuesday, demanding the Chief Minister to roll-out "complete loan-waiver", implement the recommendations of Swaminathan Commission report and restructure the compensation packages announced for farmers affected by unseasonal rain and hailstorm.
Shiv Sena, the ruling alliance partner of BJP in the state, has extended support to the protesting farmers. In an editorial in the party mouthpiece Saamna, Sena said "the anti-farmer policies of the BJP" have compelled the farmers to take the unprecedented step.
ABKS' state general secretary Ajit Nawale said the "deceit in name of loan waiver" has compelled the farmers to travel for dozens of kilometres in protest. "The miserability of the loan-waiver package could be gauged by the 1,753 farmer suicides recorded after the scheme was implemented," he was reported as saying.
The loan-waiver package, costing Rs 34,200-crore to the exchequer, was implemented in July last year after a massive agrarian agitation in Western Maharashtra.
The ABKS, which was part of the steering committee which led the agitations last year, decided to re-launch the protest, alleging massive irregularity in the loan-waiver scheme.
Apart from a fresh loan-waiver and implementation of 150 per cent hike in minimum support prices (MSP), the ABKS has also demanded a compensation of Rs 40,000 per acre for crop damaged in the hail storms and rainfall which occurred in parts of Maharashtra in January and February.
The compensation package announced by the government last month would provide Rs 6,800-13,500 per acre of damaged crops. "What the government is offering is extremely inadequate," Nawale claimed.