The plight of close to 34,000 distressed farmers who walked over 180 kms for six days on foot from Nashik to Mumbai moved the residents of Mumbai.
Armed with their red flags, they walked in the dark of the night to not create any inconvenience for students giving their Class 10 board exams during the day. They have been on the road despite how swollen, covered in blisters, their feet were.
The arduous six-day journey had taken a toll on their shoes and chappals. In a moving gesture, locals, as well as voluntary groups, came forward to donate footwear and foodgrains to these protesting farmers.
One of the voluntary organisations, namely the Thane Matadata Jagran Manch, provided over 500 kg of food grains to the farmers who camped during the night at the BMC octroi ground.
Speaking to the Times of India, one of the members, Unmesh Bagawe, said, “We had been in touch with the protestors since the rally started from Nashik on Tuesday. The organizers had refused to accept donations, but we were determined to help them as we are aware how they struggle to ensure food on our plate.”
Two groups came forward to arrange for footwear.
Nita Karnik, a resident of Flower Valley who volunteered to deliver 100 pairs of shoes, said, “We were shocked to see the farmers walk barefoot on the highway. Some of us removed our footwear and offered it to the women, while others decided to donate shoes the following day.”
It wasn’t just the residents of Thane alone, Jogeshwari-based voluntary youth organisation Janta Jagruti Manch, also rushed to the aid of the distressed farmers.
33-year-old Kamlesh Shamanthula from the Manch, also an IT professional sent out WhatsApp messages to over 4000 users on Sunday to mobilise them to donate footwear.
Making it clear he told people that the footwear would only be used for two days since the march ends of Monday, he told Mumbai Mirror, “I don’t want people dropping by on Tuesday and leaving things behind. They shouldn’t use the march to get rid of the belongings they no longer want.”
It was indeed heartening to see multiple pairs of footwear being handed over to volunteers at Somaiya Ground late Sunday night, within hours of the message being sent out.
Volunteers also arranged for a simple dinner of rice and dal at the farmers’ night halts in addition to ready-made food and drinks like biscuits, chocolates and water while the march was in action.
“The farmers provide us food. Today they need us. They are the face of the nation. If they don’t survive, what remains?” he said.
Even as the farmers left the Thane city limits, a group of Mulund residents showered flowers on on Sunday morning.
“We are humbled by the love showered on us by Thane residents…We are happy that those living in the city have understood the plight of poor farmers living in villages. We hope the government accepts our demands too,” AIKS state secretary Ajit Navale told Times of India.