A large number of farmers and tribals take part in a protest march in Mumbai (Photographer: Shashank Parade/PTI)

Maharashtra Chief Minister Says Land Rights Claims Will Be Settled

Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis on Thursday assured tribal farmers that their forest land rights claims will be settled by December.

Fadnavis gave this assurance to representatives of protesting farmers who marched to Azad Maidan in Mumbai for redressal of their grievances, which include compensation for drought and transfer of forest rights to tribals.

A delegation of the protesting tribals met Fadnavis at Vidhan Bhawan in south Mumbai, where the winter session of the state legislature is underway.

Tribal welfare minister Vishnu Savra said 3.6 lakh claims were received, of which 1.74 lakh have been settled in favour of the tribals.

Similarly, 12,000 claims for community forest activity were also received, of which 7,700 have been settled, he said. Fadnavis assured the delegation that the remaining claims would be settled by December.

The march reached Azad Maidan early on Thursday, eight months after a similar protest was held at the venue.

The farmers and tribals who began the two-day march from Thane to Mumbai on Wednesday had halted for the night at the Somaiyya Ground in Mumbai's Sion area.

The march traversed through Dadar and the JJ flyover before reaching the Maidan, adjacent to the Mumbai municipal corporation headquarters.

Magsaysay award winner Dr. Rajendra Singh, also known as Waterman of India, was among the marchers. He blamed the government for the drought, which he said was "man-made".

The farmers are demanding implementation of the Swaminathan Committee report, which suggested that farmers must have assured access and control over resources such as land and water. They are also demanding an increase in the minimum support price and a judicial system to ensure its implementation.

The farmers, struggling to cope with the agrarian crisis, are demanding proper implementation of the loan waiver package announced by the BJP-led government in the state last year, land rights for farmers and compensation for farm labourers.

"We have been consistently asking the state government to fulfil our long-standing demands, but the response has been lukewarm,” said Pratibha Shinde, general secretary of Lok Sangharsh Morcha, which is organising the protest. “We were forced to launch this agitation."

In March, thousands of farmers, led by the Left-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha, took out a 180-km long march from Nashik to Mumbai in March to press for their demands.

That protest saw a sea of red, formed by farmers in red caps, converge in Mumbai from across Maharashtra.