Since 6th March attention of entire Maharashtra was focused on thousands of farmers who started their Long March to Mumbai from Nashik, under the leadership of the Maharashtra unit of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha. A 1.5 km long river of red seemed to flow along the highway as more than 30 thousand farmers, young and old, men and women, walked nearly 200 kms in scorching heat, many of them barefoot, waving red flags with hammer and sickle and reached Azad Maidan in Mumbai in the early hours of 12th March. It was indeed a magnificent scene. Braving all odds and various attempts by the government of Maharashtra to scare them and to split them, these farmers in one voice declared to the gathered media that “it is better to die fighting for our rights here, rather than dying hungry in our fields!” It is this single minded determination which forced the Maharashtra government to concede some of their demands.
Maharashtra has experienced the largest number of farmer suicides over the last 2 decades. They have been fighting for their rights along with farmers all over the country. After a protracted struggle last year, in June 2017, the Government of Maharashtra announced a conditional farm loan waiver. A lot of propaganda was made by Maharashtra government that more than 34 thousand crore worth of loans would be waived, benefitting tens of lakhs of farmer families. However in reality farmers of Maharashtra realized that very cleverly the state government had put such conditions for loan waiver that not many farmers actually benefited from it. Since then as many as 1753 farmers have committed suicide in Maharashtra. This bitter experience with the government’s promise had angered them. At the same time lakhs of farmers tilling forest lands are facing eviction from forest land, in spite of provisions in the Forest Rights Act 2006. Due to the government rule of making Aadhar card mandatory for receiving ration at PDS ration shops, lakhs of farmer families are not getting their ration for many months; due to lack of proper infrastructure they are unable to get their Aadhar card. This has also angered them. Like farmers across the country, they are demanding assurance of minimum support price at 1.5 times the cost of production as per the Swaminathan Commission report. This demand continues to be ignored.
The Communist parties express their solidarity
Several leaders of the various peasant organizations and communist parties addressed the massive rally held in Azad Maidan on March 12. All the speakers wholeheartedly supported the peasants’ just demands and blamed the successive governments in the State and the Centre for the deteriorating plight of peasants. The speakers included representatives from Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha (ABKS), Communist Party of India, Communist Party of India (Marxist), Communist Ghadar Party of India and the Socialist Unity Centre of India.
The representative of CGPI wholeheartedly supported the just demands of the peasants and expressed solidarity with their longstanding struggle for justice. He emphasized that the present Indian State implements the agenda of the Indian Monopoly Capitalists, irrespective of the party or the coalition in power. Replacing one party by another will not solve our problems. All of us must fight to establish the workers-peasants rule in India which will guarantee sukh and suraksha to our peasants.
Thousands of copies of the article of the Communist Ghadar Party of India on the agricultural crisis in India and the way forward to solve the problem was distributed to all those present in the rally. Copies of Mazdoor Ekta Lehar were eagerly taken by the farmers.
Working people express their solidarity!
Farmers participating in the 7-day Long March experienced a ground swell of support all along the 170 km route.
Villagers from areas around the Nashik-Mumbai highway helped them to make arrangements for their night rest. Villagers generously helped them with food and water.
Working people of Thane and Mumbai - Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs organized biscuits, bananas and drinking water. Many people gave generous donations to the farmers. Dabbawalas of Mumbai (those who collect lunch boxes from the residences of working people and deliver them at their workplaces) organized food for the farmers through their Roti bank.
Working people from nearby Panvel district organized 1 lakh bhakris ( jowar and rice rotis ) and 500 Kgs. Dry fish preparation.
Many organizations of working people declared their unconditional support to the agitating farmers.
Shamelessness of capitalist parties exposed!
When the farmers started their march from Nashik all the major parties of capitalists kept watching from the sidelines. But as more and more farmers started joining the march and as support for the agitating farmers from other sections started growing, one by one the major capitalist parties started whispering their support to farmers. However after the farmers’ Long March reached Mumbai, they started competing with each other, in trying to reap electoral benefit. First the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), followed by Shiv Sena, and then the Congress jumped into the fray. They started addressing the farmers saying “you give the power to us and then see what we will do for you”. How shameless! Shiv Sena is actually part of the government at the State and Centre. NCP and Congress have been in power in Maharashtra and in the Centre not too long ago. How can farmers be fooled by these capitalist parties who while in power have actually vigorously implemented policies which are at the root of farmers’ problems! A lady farmer interviewed on Television indeed gave a fitting description calling these parties “poisonous chameleons”, which not only change their colors but are also poisonous.
All the anger against such injustice simmering in their hearts finally culminated in this heroic and determined Long March. Finally the government of Maharashtra was forced to concede some of their demands. The state government has agreed to dilute the conditions laid down for a loan waiver, including its extension from June 30, 2016, to June 30, 2017, and allowed those with pending loans from 2001 (instead of 2009) to benefit from the scheme. It also complied with the demand that loans taken for agricultural implements and equipment up to Rs. 1.50 lakh be considered under the waiver. It has also agreed to consider loans taken by husband and wife separately while applying loan waiver criteria. It has agreed that the transfer of forest land will be completed in six months. It has also agreed to give relief to farmers whose crops have been damaged due to the recent hailstorm and pink ballworm.
Mazdoor Ekta Lehar congratulates and salutes the fighting farmers of Maharashtra for this success! We have no doubt that this success was achieved due to their determined struggle and due to the support the farmers enjoy in the hearts of all working people!
However, from their own experience and experience of all the working people, farmers know very well that they will have to continue their struggle with the same determination to ensure that the Maharashtra government abides by all the promises given. Farmers know very well that loan waiver is not the solution which will guarantee their well being in the future. They know very well that the future of farmers and their families cannot be ensured unless and until the Central government
- implements state procurement of farm produce at remunerative prices
- ensures availability of all agriculture inputs like seeds, fertilizers, insecticides, water, electricity etc. in required quantity and of good quality at affordable prices
- eliminates the role of capitalist trading companies from food grain trade
- eliminates private profiteers and nationalizes wholesale trade of agriculture produce
- puts in place a universal public distribution system under people’s control, for all goods of mass consumption like food grains, cereals, milk, eggs, meat, medicines, stationery, vegetables, fruits, etc.
Hence we call upon the farmers of Maharashtra and their fighting organizations, to continue the struggle hand in hand with working class, against the Central government and its anti-people policies, and force it to ensure all the above steps. The goal of farmers and other working people is the same i.e. to end the rule of the parasitic capitalist class and in its place establish the rule of workers and peasants!