Kolkata: In a strong show of support to farmers protesting at Delhi borders, more than 50,000 farmers came from across West Bengal to Kolkata on Wednesday and blockaded Rani Rashmoni Avenue, a major road near Raj Bhavan, for over four hours.
Two huge marches--one from Sealdah railway station and another from Howrah railway station--covered major parts of the city and merged at the programme venue near the bustling Esplanade area and Raj Bhavan. The area was lined with red flags of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). Further, students, youths and the activists of the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) together led a massive march to the venue as did the Eastern Railways Men’s Union and the BSNL workers union.
Leaders of all major Left parties of the state were present at the rally showing their solidarity to the farmers’ cause. Later, a delegation comprising Haripada Biswas, Subhas Nashkar, Avik Saha, Bhaktaram Pan, Md Salim and Jayatu Deshmukh went to the Raj Bhavan to submit a deputation to Governor Jagdeep Dhankar decrying the adverse condition that farmers are facing in the country.
AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah, who is also one of the leaders of All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), which is leading the agitation near the National Capital Region of Delhi, addressed Wednesday’s protest.
Farmers Vs Corporates and Govt
Speaking at the rally, Mollah claimed that the entire Indian economy, from telecommunication to ports, farming and banking and other sectors, was being transferred to big corporates like Mukesh Ambani and Gautam Adani. In retaliation to this, the AIKSCC has called for a boycott of Ambani’s Jio and picketing programmes in front of petrol pumps run by Reliance Industries and other businesses of Reliance and Adani Group in the country.
“Those who stay down in the soil cannot be traitors. Those corporates who live in the tall buildings are vying to loot the country and its farmers are being dubbed as traitors”, he said.
Mollah also claimed that the Union government has had an “apathetic and bulldozing” attitude towards the farmers from the first day of its tenure, even though the current government has come to power citing its commitment to farmers. He said that after a series of failed discussions between the farmers and the government, all National Highways leading to New Delhi have been blocked. In the latest, the Jaipur-New Delhi Highway has also been blocked by farmers.
“We are alert,” he said, “As military and security forces are using cranes to erect barriers.” Mollah also asked the gathering whether the Delhi-Haryana border or Punjab, Haryana and Delhi interstate borders were akin to the India-Pakistan border, which remains sealed.
Leaders of 10 central trade unions came to AIKSCC’s makeshift stage on a truck and expressed solidarity with the farmers of the state and the country. AIKS state secretary Amal Haldar, Sanjukta Kisan Sabha’s Subhas Nashkar, Agragami Kisan Sabha’s Gouranga Dutta, AIKSCC’s Organising Secretary Kartik Pal, and Kisan Kalyan Sangh’s Samir Putatunda addressed the rally.
In his speech, Pal said that the farm laws, after being trounced, were just torn papers and held no meaning.
The farmers present in the rally were wary of corporate entry into the agri-business and contract farming due to their past experiences.
Niloy Mete, a 48-year-old potato farmer, brought to the rally a placard depicting the exorbitant price of potato seeds at Rs 100 per kilogramme while potato was trading at Rs 50 per kg.
Speaking with NewsClick, Mete said that contract farming was trying to spread its tentacles among the farmers of Bengal and Punjab through one of the three new farm laws. Mete, who studied till class 8 and later took training in 2009 from Bidhan Krishi University for expertise to increase the yield of his land, said he was against contract farming. His experience in contract farming in Hooghly to supply produce to a foreign multi-national company for potato chips has not been good. "Though it gives more than the MSP (Minimum Support Price) for potatoes. Too many potatoes being spoiled results in low profitability,” he added.