MUMBAI: The Maharashtra government on Sunday formally invited the farmers leading the ‘long march’ for talks. Irrigation Minister Girish Mahajan, who is also the guardian minister of Nashik district, from where a majority of farmers joined the protest, met the leaders in the eastern Mumbai suburb of Vikhroli. He told them the government is considering an amicable resolution of their demands and asked them to join the talks at the Assembly complex on Monday.
However, the farmers will continue their agitation though their leaders will engage in talks with the government, said Dr Ajit Navle, general secretary of the Akhil Bharatiya Kisan Sabha, under whose banner the long march is being conducted.
As the march entered Mumbai city limits on Sunday morning, farmers from Palghar district and parts of Thane district, like Kalyan, Shahapur and Bhiwandi, joined in at Mulund. The protesters halted at Vikhroli briefly and reached Somaiya ground in the eastern suburb of Chunabhatti around 8 pm.The Mumbai traffic police made elaborate arrangements and diverted traffic to avoid congestion.
After meeting the leaders of the march, Girish Mahajan informed the media that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis invited the farmers for talks.
“I feel the talks would be fruitful and the issue would be resolved amicably,” he added.Navle, on his part, welcomed the government’s gesture. “Had the government initiated the talks earlier, we would not have had to toil under the sun,” he said.
However, he added that though the farmers were ready for talks, that did not mean the agitation would fizzle out.“We won’t back down unless we get a concrete assurance in writing from the government over the issues we raised,” Navale asserted.
Meanwhile, after the Shiv Sena, MNS and the AAP, the Congress also expressed its solidarity with the agitation.
“We support the demands raised by the farmer leaders. The Congress party is with the farmers in their fight against the government,” Maharashtra Congress president Ashok Chavan tweeted.The farmers are expected to gherao the state Assembly in Mumbai on Monday, when the budget session is in progress.