Maharashtra farmers call off strike as government agrees to demands

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The Maharashtra farmers have called off strike after the government agreed to give written assurances that it would address their grievances within the next two months.

Maha farmers protest

Maharashtra Irrigation Minister Girish Mahajan said, "We've had a positive meeting with farmers in which all their demands were discussed. They made around 12-13 demands out of which we've accepted some while rest were not acceptable due to technical issues. We will be giving them a written draft of it. I think they're satisfied with our decisions."

Earlier, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government was "sensitive and positive" towards the demands of farmers and tribals, who have marched from Nashik to Mumbai to draw the administration's attention towards their problems.

The Azad Maidan in South Mumbai turned into a sea of red this morning as thousands of farmers, carrying red flags, converged here after walking around 180 kms from the neighbouring Nashik district over the last six days.

Apart from the Opposition parties, the Shiv Sena, a partner in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition, also vocally supported the agitation.

The farmers had surrounded the Assembly complex to press for their demands of an unconditional loan waiver, and transfer of forest land to tribal farmers who have been tilling it for years.

"Around 90 to 95 per cent of the participants are poor tribals. They are fighting for forest land rights. They are landless and can't do farming. The government is sensitive and positive towards their demands," the chief minister said.

"A ministerial committee has been formed to discuss the demands with protesters. We will take a decision to resolve their issues in a time-bound manner," he said.

Fadnavis said his government was in touch with the march organisers since March 6.

The committee formed to resolve the farmers' issues includes revenue minister Chandrakant Patil, water resources minister Girish Mahajan, co-operation minister Subhash Deshmukh, public undertakings minister Eknath Shinde and tribal welfare minister Vishnu Savra.

The farmers protested against the alleged failures of the BJP government on the farm front, including non-implementation of recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission and the Forest Rights Act.

The farmers have demanded a change in the plan to link rivers in Nashik, Thane and Palghar districts so as to ensure that tribal lands are not submerged and water from the scheme be made available to these areas and other drought-prone districts.

They are also protesting against the state government's land acquisition for projects such as high speed rail and super highways.

"We are demanding an increase in pension schemes for poor peasants and farm workers, compensation for losses due to pink bollworm and pest attacks and rehauling of the public distribution system," the march organisers had earlier said.

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