Patna: Amid growing support for the farmers protesting against the three contentious farm Laws and anger against the rising price of petrol, diesel and edible oil, Bihar is set to witness its first ‘Kisan Mahapanchayat’ on March 25.
The much-awaited Kisan Mahapanchayat will be held in Rohtas district and will be addressed by Rakesh Tikait, leader of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU). The gathering will be organised under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Sangathan Samanvay Samiti and Sanyukt Kisan Morcha, which is a united front of over 40 Indian farmers unions.
This will be the first visit of Tikait to Bihar after the farmers' protest started last year against the three central farm laws. Besides Tikait, other top farmer leaders including Balbir Singh Rajewal and Darshanpal Singh will attend the Kisan Mahapanchayat in the state.
According to Ramashamkar Sarkar, a farmer leader, preparations have begun to mobilise farmers for the Mahapanchayat as it will be a show of strength. Farmers, youth, students and others from neighbouring districts are expected to participate in the Mahapanchayat in large numbers. In Bihar, the fertile landscape of Rohtas and Kaimur is known as the paddy bowl despite being drought-prone.
Several farmer bodies like the Rashtriya Kisan Morcha, Kisan Mahasangh, Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan, Bhartiya Kisan Manch and Rashtriya Kisan Samagam have joined hands for the mahapanchayat.
After Rohtas, the Kisan Mahapanchayat will be held in other districts of the state. “Soon, we will identify the districts to hold Kisan Mahapanchayats to create awareness and support among the farmers," Sarkar said.
Unlike other states, the Kisan Mahapanchayat in Bihar will focus on the demand of Minimum Support Price (MSP) for paddy and wheat along with maize and pulses, which is an old demand of the farmers in the state.
The Opposition Mahagathbandhan has organised several protests against the Farm Laws over the past month in view of the fact that nearly two-thirds of Bihar’s total population of 12 crores is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Most of them are small and marginal farmers as per government data. Moreover, nearly two-thirds of all agricultural activities in the state is dependent on rainfall.
Aside from the Opposition parties, former Union minister Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) also protested against the farm laws. The party has conducted ‘Kisan Chaupals’ to create awareness about the laws and has threatened to launch a state-wide farmer protest similar to that of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.
Agriculture is the backbone of Bihar’s economy, employing around 81% of the workforce and generating nearly 42% of the state’s gross domestic product, according to state government figures.
Opposition leaders said that farmers in Bihar have been rendered helpless after the government abolished the Agricultural Produce Market Committee Act over 14 years ago (in 2006).
All the 16 MLAs of Left parties including 12 from the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist), two each from the CPI (M) and CPI have repeatedly staged protests against the three farm laws outside and inside the state assembly during the ongoing budget session. The issue of protesting farmers was raised by opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Congress MLAs.
Last month, the Opposition members walked out of the Bihar Assembly over farmers’ issues. They staged the walkout after Speaker Vijay Sinha rejected the notice of an adjournment motion by the Opposition for a discussion on the farmers’ issues.
Bihar’s Leader of Opposition, Tejashwi Yadav rode a tractor from his residence to the Bihar Assembly during the budget session last month in the support of the protesting farmers. By doing this, Tejashwi sent out the message that the opposition Mahagathbandhan would continue to oppose the farm laws and it would stand with the protesting farmers.