- Over 30,000 Maharashtra farmers to protest in Mumbai tomorrow
- They are demanding the implementation of the loan waiver scheme
- Security arrangements are in place and traffic advisory has been issued
The protesters, who began the march from Nashik on Tuesday evening and are about to finish a tiring walk of 180 km to Mumbai with night halts every 30-odd kilometre, have found political support.
Senior Shiv Sena leader Eknath Shinde visited the protesters late Friday night and welcomed them. But he also clarified that he had come with party chief Uddhav Thackeray's message and not as a cabinet minister in the Government of Maharashtra.
The Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha welcomed everyone to join but questioned why the Sena, an ally in the government, only had encouragement to offer. Ajit Nawale from the All India Kisan Sabha said, "It's sad the Sena has only offered support. Their presence and the support is welcome but he (Mr Shinde) is a member of the government. Only support is not fair. You call yourselves tigers. When will you use your claws for farmers interests?"
As the march continued towards Mumbai under thousands of red flags fluttering in the air, the organisers insisted it could not be branded a communist protest as it was for a common cause and not confined to the Left alone.
The farmers say their main demand is for a waiver of all loans and the implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report, which says farmers should be paid one and a half times the cost of production for what they produce and the MSP's should be fixed keeping this in mind.
An energetic Jidabai said her rights were very important to her and she had managed to not only walk all the way from Nashik but remain right at the front of the march consistently for these four days. Her formula to keep going? Break into a dance.
"I want to tell the Chief Minister that he should transfer the land in our names so that we can work and feed ourselves," a beaming Jijabai Gaikwad told NDTV, showing off the blisters she developed on her feet while walking in the heat for four days.
Though the protesters plan to picket the legislative assembly on Monday, the government is not looking at a confrontation.
Security arrangements have been put in place for Monday and traffic advisories are also being issued. The BJP-led government will have to tread carefully as it cannot afford to antagonise the rural constituency ahead of elections next year, political experts say.