Kolkata: The farmers protesting against three farm laws have intensified their movement and 10 lakhs of them with thousands of tractors will take part in a parade in New Delhi on January 26, announced Ashok Dhawale, the president of All India Kisan Sabha, on Wednesday.
“Against the continuous loot of the farmers and farmers’ interests, over 10 lakhs of farmers will take part in the parade in New Delhi on January 26. Neither PM Modi nor the Supreme Court has got the capacity to stall the farmers' parade in New Delhi,” said Dhawale while addressing a farmers’ rally in Kolkata, West Bengal.
“Every day the support of the farmers are rising, be it in New Delhi or Mumbai,” the AIKS President said. He also added that in Maharashtra, even the mainstream political parties sans the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) are all openly supporting the farmer's protests and they are gathering in support of the movement at Mumbai’s Azad Maidan on January 26, which is Republic Day.
Lakhs of farmers have been protesting at five border points of the national capital against the Centre’s three farm laws for more than 50 days. They have announced that on the failure of talks with the Centre over the laws, the farmers will march into Delhi on Republic Day with their tractors, but would not disturb the customary official parade at Rajpath.
On the Centre’s plea asking the Supreme Court to order the farmers not to carry out the tractor rally on Republic Day, the apex court on Wednesday refused to pass orders. Then, the Centre said it will leave it to Delhi police to decide how to tackle the event.
Speaking to NewsClick at the rally, Jai Kisan Andolan leader Yogendra Yadav said that there was no question of violence in the Delhi parade as far as the farmers' side was concerned. “The farmers' parade will be even better than the parade with tanks (at Rajpath) and it will consist of songs," he said.
Addressing the rally, Yadav said, “The fight to reclaim the republic has started as democracy in present India has hit the bottom.” Commenting on the farmers’ protest in Delhi, he said, every Sunday at Singhu border in Delhi, there is a celebration of life. “The government had thought of wearing us out but is now witnessing the spirited fight of the farmers.”
Later, Dhawale and Yadav detailed the plans of the farmers’ parade saying it will take the Outer Ring road of New Delhi and they will win the hearts of people of the national capital.
Protests in Bengal
In West Bengal, tractor and motorcycle rallies are planned to be held in all the districts in support of the pan-Indian farmers’ protests on January 26. However, as the tractor population varies across districts, in many places, motorcycles will take their place, and even power tillers are supposed to join in support of the Delhi farmers as well as the demands of the farming community in West Bengal.
AIKS leader Amal Halder also addressed the farmers’ rally on Wednesday in Kolkata, saying that the farmers in Bengal are not sitting idle but are for their rights in the villages of the state. He said everyone had to take more onus to take the dharnas in West Bengal to the next level and urged the present Jatha participants to gherao the BDO or the tehsil offices and not move from their positions until their demands are met.
In his speech, Tushar Ghosh of All India Agricultural Workers Union alleged that a conspiracy is being hatched to make farming unattractive in the country. “But even during the lockdown, farming had continued, indicating the strength of the agriculture sector of the country,” he said.
The farmers’ rally, which marked the start of a 72-hour dharna by farmers at Y channel in the busy Esplanade area of central Kolkata, was flooded with the red flags of the AIKS and various other farmers’ organisations while many peasants in white clothes sat in the audience.
Ananta Bagdi, a farmer from Burdwan who was attending the rally, expressed anguish over the manner “farming is being destroyed in the country step by step”. He said, “It is not a matter of politics but the question of our livelihood. In Burdwan, rice mills are taking the paddy directly while the government’s role in paddy procurement is lessening day by day. This year we got only Rs 1200 to Rs 1250 for per quintal of paddy whereas the MSP (minimum support price) of the crop is Rs 1882.”
Bagdi added that the protest on January 26 and the movement leading up to that day all over the state will reflect these sufferings of the farmers and also forewarn the ruling dispensation against taking the farmers as an “awful uneducated lot not capable of forging movements.”
Amal Haldar, who is also the convenor of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, which is leading the farmers’ movement, presided over the rally. Pradip Singha Thakur of Bharat Krantikari Kisan Sabha, Tapan Batabyal of Sara Bharat Krishi Mahsabha, Tushar Ghosh of All India Agricultural Workers’ Union, Haripada Biswas of Agragami Kisan Sabha, Avik Saha of Jai Kisan Andolan, Sushil K Jha of Sarabharat Khetmajur Samity also spoke at the rally. A cultural programme was held after the speeches of the leaders.
Alleged Attempt to End Kisan Mandi
In his speech at the Wednesday rally, Dhawale alleged that there was a concerted attempt to end all the kisan mandis across the country while multi-national corporations like Monsanto, Cargill and PepsiCo are set to usurp the entire agri trade in the country. “Indian businessmen like Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani are just carrying out an array of loot out there,” he said.
Training gun at West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee, Dhawale asked, “In Kerala, the Left-led Pinarayi Vijayan government is giving MSP of Rs 2700 to paddy growers, then why can the Mamata Banerjee government not give the same to paddy growers in West Bengal?”
He warned that in Bihar after stopping of mandis, paddy price has fallen to Rs 600 to Rs 700 rupees per kilogram and the condition will be the same if mandis are stopped elsewhere too. After the New Economic Policy in the country, there has been 4 lakh farmer suicides and this fight is also for the guarantee of paddy MSP at Rs 2700, he said, adding that for the first time, farmers are directly fighting against corporate groups.
The AIKS leader went on to say, “Ambani stays in the city of Mumbai where I stay, but in he stays in a 250-room, 27-floor apartment which has the electricity bill of Rs 70 lakh.” He pointed out that in the case of the average consumers, the electricity bill is excessively charged while in the case of corporates, they are getting rebates now. Commenting on the impact of the farm laws, he added, “In case of essential commodities, hoarding is being allowed and minimum support price will be in doldrums in the next two to three years.”
In the programme, a tribute was paid to the martyrs of the movement--the farmers who have lost their lives in nearly two months. A plaque containing the names of all the martyrs was erected at the venue and Two minutes silence was observed in their memory.