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  • Farmers shout slogans against the government at a rally organized by All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) in Mumbai, India March 12, 2018.

    Farmers shout slogans against the government at a rally organized by All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) in Mumbai, India March 12, 2018. | Photo: Reuters

Published 12 March 2018

The marches came on the heels of a rise in farmers' suicides across India, estimated at nearly 12,602 farmers committed suicide between 2015 and 2016.

After a sea of red swept part of the Indian state of Maharastra with nearly 35,000 farmers, reaching Azad Maidan in Mumbai, the financial capital of India, from Nashik as part of the Kisan (Farmer) Long March, demanding agrarian reform, the ruling right-wing Narendra Modi government has agreed to resolve the farmers' issues within six months.

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The farmers have decided to withdraw the protest for now and a special train has been arranged for them to return home, according to the Hindu, a left-leaning Indian daily. 

Irrigation Minister Girish Mahajan said the government has agreed to meet their demands. "The government has agreed on 100 percent of demands, including transfer of land title," he said according to the Hindu. 

The farmers began their march from the southwestern city of Nashik to Mumbai on Mar. 6, and after walking for nearly 140 hours, tens of thousands of peasants reached Mumbai late Sunday night. 

The main demands by the farmers include a complete loan waiver, including electricity bills, an adequate fixed minimum support price for their produce, the right to land for the tribal cultivators as part of the 2006 Forest Rights Act, and other recommendations made by the Swaminathan Commission

Several volunteers and communities also came forward to assist the farmers with food, water, and footwear. "We thought about helping the farmers with food as they are our food-providers and have come from remote parts of the state," Subhash Talekar, the spokesperson of Mumbai Dabbawala Association, (Lunchbox service), said. "We asked our men...to collect food and deliver it to our farmer brothers at the Azad Maidan," he added. 

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The opposition party, All India Congress Committee's general secretary Mohan Prakash told the Hindu, "Since Modi has come to power, the country's farmers have been the worst hit. It’s a double whammy in Maharashtra since there is a BJP government here as well. Farmers products prices have crashed but their raw material prices have surged."

The march came on the heels of a rise in farmers' suicides in the South Asian country. Activists estimate that between 2015 and 2016, nearly 12,602 farmers committed suicide. 

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister, Ashok Chavan of the opposition, Indian National Congress party, also pointed out, "Maharashtra has the highest suicide rate. The farmers walked all the way to have their problems resolved by the government and not just to talk. This is not a politically motivated rally but a real issue. I appeal to the government to take this seriously." 

In November, farmers held massive nation-wide strikes just before the winter session of Parliament, to demand agrarian reforms, but despite the government's promise of addressing their issues, not much changed.

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