Unmindful of the scorching heat, nearly 12,000 farmers walked 180km over more than four days and landed at Mumbai’s doorstep, Thane, on Saturday evening. On Sunday, they plan to march into Mumbai, where an equal number of farmers is expected to join in. The farmers on Monday will troop into south Mumbai and gherao the Vidhan Bhavan to demand a complete loan waiver, remunerative prices for agricultural produce and implementation of Swaminathan Commission recommendations among others. The budget session is underway at the state legislature. While the city police have made elaborate security and traffic arrangements for Sunday as well as Monday, citizens could experience some inconvenience along the morcha route, especially since HSC, SSC, CBSE (Class X as well as XII), ICSE and ISC exams are underway. “There are currently no instructions but students must take care to leave earlier than usual depending on the situation on Monday morning,” said Subhash Borse, in-charge secretary of the state board’s Mumbai division. The morcha caused massive snarls on roads connecting Thane and Mumbai to Nashik on Saturday. Several vehicles, including an ambulance, were stuck in snarls for many hours. The organisers claimed that by Saturday night, the number of protestors had swollen to 34,000. The police however maintained that the number was 12,000. For Saturday night, the protesters camped at the octroi naka yard near Mulund toll naka. While the police said the protestors, after marching into Mumbai on Sunday, will stay at Somaiyya Grounds for the night, the organizers said they could stay at Vikhroli. Ajit Nawale of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which is leading the rally, said thousands of farmers accompanied by their wives and parents have joined the cause. “Why would they suffer such a long and winding journey on foot, if their causes weren’t genuine,” he questioned, pointing towards the ‘red wave’ following him on the busy Nashik highway on Saturday afternoon. He said they were all here to present their charter of demands to the government. Babasaheb Bawiskar, an ageing farmer who is part of the rally that commenced in Nashik on Tuesday, said he has a huge family to fend for and hasn’t got any help from the government over the last few years. “I have been ailing and am unsure how I will be able to take care of my family in the coming days,” he said. Nawale said the resolute of these agrarians was visible as they continued to walk undeterred by the blisters and injuries on their feet. He said that villagers en route supplied the protestors with ration. One such villager in Bhiwandi said: “I can relate with the pain of the farmers as I see it on my husband’s face every year after a failed crop. We hope they seek a reply to all the hardships we have been facing over the last several years.” When told that the police planned to stop the protesters at Azad Maidan, Nawale said they will stage a satyagraha. “If we are stopped midway, we will sit down at the very same spot and stage a rasta roko. We are not going to stop till we confront the government. Mumbaikars could face inconvenience due to this on Monday,” he said. The Shiv Sena, a partner in the state government, and the MNS have extended their support to the rally. Senior Sena leader and PWD minister Eknath Shinde, who is also the guardian minister of Thane, met the protestors in Shahapur. “Shinde met us at the behest of Sena president Uddhav Thackeray. Abhijit Jadhav, an emissary of MNS chief Raj Thackeray, also met us. He got me in touch with the MNS chief over phone,” said Nawale.
UTHAGAMANDALAM: The Government Botanical Garden (GBG) in Ooty witnessed an event with fun and frolic, a one of its kind, on Thursday. At least 2,000 women, including the Nilgiris district collector, self-help groups and tourists gathered at the sprawling lawn in the GBG. Yes, the gathering was to celebrate ‘women’s day’ in an informal way of expressing themselves. The event was organized by the district administration in association with Social Welfare Department, Women Development Department and Light and Life Academy. It was fun for all the women gathered there including J Innocent Divya, Nilgiris Collector and other women officials and women staff from the collector’s office and revenue department besides the public. T. Devakumari, District Social Welfare Officer told TOI, “It is a day out for all of the women gathered here. And it is a motivational event for them”. The programmes included games such as lime on spoon race, tug of war, musical chair and three legged race, besides flash mob. Women from all walks of life, including the collector, officials and women police took part in all the events held in the open air without any inhibition. It was not a formal function with a chief guest. “Here, today, everyone felt as a chief guest and the event facilitated them to come out as what they are”, said Aruradha Iqbal, Correspondent of Light and Life academy, which had organized many of the events. Also, students and staff from the academy took part in almost all the events and documented too. A visual CD on women empowerment and womanhood created by the students of Light and Life Academy was released by the Collector. “Fun elements like ‘faking news’ in the visual CD, portrayed by the common women, is the highlight of the visual and that portrays the confidence level of a common woman”, said Iqbal Mohamed, founder of Light and Life Academy. A wish tree for the women in the garden attracted most of the women. And interestingly one such wish tag read: ‘I wish for a less judgmental society’. Anuradha said, “This year’s theme being ‘Press for Progress’, interpretation of the art as women in progress, equality, safety, education to girl child and all those are standard things and they are happening. Of course, a lot more to be done in those areas. But we thought let us do something which the Nilgiris completely forgotten. That is woman is a woman. She has got some simple basic things like let her hair down and have fun. Women can have as much fun as any man, if not always”. She further said, “So this event enables them to rediscover the fun part of them and really have fun. In fact, the ideas for the games were contributed by women, like ‘bun on a string’ and ‘three legged races’. ‘Let us celebrate women. Make them feel very important’. That’s how the entire programme has been organized”.