Tens of thousands of Indian farmers protested in Mumbai on Monday (March 12) after walking more than a hundred kilometres to demand better crop prices and land rights.
The farmers, wearing red caps and carrying red flags, arrived in the city following a six-day trek from Nashik, situated 165 kilometres north of India’s financial capital.
Officials estimated that up to 30,000 demonstrators, including elderly women and young children, had gathered at Azad Maidan playing field in the south of Mumbai to press their demands.
“We have made arrangements including setting up of emergency medical facilities and potable drinking water,” Mr Tanaji Kamble, a spokesman for Mumbai’s civic authority, told AFP.
The protesters want the state government of Maharashtra – of which Mumbai is the capital – to transfer forest land to tribal farmers, who have been working it for years.
They also want to be paid one-and-a-half times the cost of producing their crops and are demanding that the government waives all farm loans.
The Maharashtra government has said it is willing to consider the demands and is due to meet farming leaders to try to reach a deal.
Last year, Maharashtra Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis said his government would write off loans to farmers, estimated to be worth around 305 billion rupees (S$6.16 billion).
India has nearly 260 million farmers and farm labourers and more than half the population lives in rural areas, but agriculture accounts for just 17 per cent of its gross domestic product.
Maharashtra is one of India’s most important agricultural states. In recent years, it has suffered disappointing rains, which led to crop failures.
More than 2,500 farmers killed themselves in the state in 2017, according to official figures.