Nasik: Sindai Rama Pawar, 63, is standing with flag of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). She is quiet but angry. "We walked last year but government cheated us. This year, we will not stop until government signs our land allotment papers," said Sindai. She is from Astane village of Malegaon Tehsil, Nasik, and is here to participate in the Kisan Long March 2.0. "We don't have any option than working in fields. Both my sons go to Satara, Pune (Western Maharashtra) as sugarcane-cutting labour. I, along with old women like me from our village, have reached here with a lot of hope," she says.
If one walks with thousands of farmers, mostly tribals, from almost 24 districts of Maharashtra, he or she will hear similar stories. Land is the only livelihood option and that too does not belong to them, on paper. These farmers have been growing different crops on the land for decades, but these land parcels belong to the Forest Department or local temple trusts or is Gayran (grazing) land. To get that land allotted in their names, these farmers walked barefoot for 180 km from March 6 to 12 March in 2018, and stirred the conscience of nation.
This historic agitation was called off after Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis accepted their demand of clearing claims of land titles on the floor of the Assembly. He had said that his government would take a positive approach and expedite the work. But when one meets the farmers gathered in Nasik, one finds that nothing has been done in the past one year.
Gevchand Sonavane from Sonej Takali village of Malegaon tehsil had also participated in the 2018 march. "We had filed a claim for our land. But nothing has happened. No officer came to meet us, enquire about our claim in last one year. Nothing has changed since then," he shares.
Gevchand and Sindai are from Nasik, a district in North Maharashtra. But a similar story runs in Marathwada too. Chaturabai Narayan Giri, 60, has reached Nasik from her village Sirali, Vasmat tehsil of Hingoli district in Marathwada. "Our land comes under Gayran category. After last year's march, we went to meet local tehsil officers. We requested them to start the procedure. They said, go to Mumbai and get the orders. They say they don't have orders from State Government. Now what do we do? We thought the CM's assurance was enough for these officers," said Chaturabai, who, along with 20 villagers, reached Nasik. "We have asked our leader to take it (orders) in writing from CM this time," said Ashok Kurale of same village.
Gangaram Devu Chaudhari (63) of Munje Chimet village in Mokhada tehsil of Palghar is participating for the first time in this march. He and his villagers had received four guntha land five years ago under the Forest Land Rights Act. "We have been working in field over to four acres for the decades. This four gunha (1 acre = 40 gunha) land is injustice to us. What crop can we grow in such a small parcel of land and how can I feed our family of eight members? The government should have thought before mocking us like this," said an annoyed Gangaram.
All these accounts tell the story of why the farmers are out in the streets once again. On ground, nothing has changed in the plight of farmers in Maharashtra. Last years’ march stirred the nation in 2018, got them assurances, but things remain the same. So, to shake the ground once again, they have been forced to take to the streets, in hope and anger.