Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Monday said the government was quite sensitive and positive towards the issues raised by thousands of farmers and tribals who have entered the city after a 180-km walk from Nashik.
The farmers wearing red caps and waving red communist party flags chanted slogans demanding higher food grain and milk prices in south Mumbai, where many big Indian companies and the central bank are headquartered. "I am confident that the farmers can expect a positive outcome at tomorrow's meeting".
Similar protests took place in Maharashtra a year ago in June, as a result of which the CM Fadnavis-led government announced a conditional Rs 34,000 crore loan waiver, which farmers claim has not been implemented properly. However, Ajit Navale, leader of the Communist Party and convenor of the Kisan Sabha, which is spearheading the protest, refused to be drawn into any discussions at this stage and made a decision to go ahead with the March.
Sakhubai, a 65-year-old woman farmer from Nashik, said "we need our land and this is our prime demand".
Ajit Nawale of the AIKS, however, dismissed the overture. "On one side we are losing exceptionally fertile land under the Nagpur-Mumbai super expressway and on the other hand farmers are not getting enough benefits of the loan waiver".
The agitating farmers included men and women.More news: Real Madrid's Zinedine Zidane: Cristiano Ronaldo from another galaxy
"We have set up a committee of ministers to hold discussions on their demands".
"Agrarian distress is linked to malnutrition".
Traffic on most of the roads would be blocked due to the farmers' march so the Maharashtra government advised the students appearing for the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) examination to reach their centres before time on Monday.
Senior Shiv Sena leader and cabinet minister Eknath Shinde and Yuva Sena (Shiv Sena's youth wing) chief Aditya Thackeray also greeted the protesters in suburban Vikhroli.
Except the ruling BJP, all other major political parties - Congress, NCP, Shiv Sena, RPI, Bharip Bahujan Mahasangh and MNS - have lent their support to the protest. "We have marched more than 100km and will go back only when all our demands are fulfilled". "My party leaders like State party unit president Sunil Tatkare and leader of the Opposition in the State Legislative Council Dhananjay Munde will participate in the long-march".