Patna: Thousands of poor farm labourers and MGNREGA workers, including a large number of women, on Wednesday took to the streets in Patna demanding a new housing policy for rural and urban areas.They also extended their support to the protesting farmers and demanded repeal of the three farm laws. The protest march was organised by farm labourers and MGNREGA workers’ organisations of the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist).
All the 12 MLAs of CPI (ML) staged a protest against the three farm laws outside the state assembly minutes ahead of the ongoing budget session began .They expressed their dismay over the NDA-led central government ignoring the protesting farmers and reiterated the demand for repeal of the contentious laws.
Sloganeering protesters gathered near the Gate Public Library and started their peaceful protest march with placards and red party flags towards the Bihar Assembly.The march turned into a protest meeting at the Gardanibagh protest site, about half a kilometre from the state assembly. All the MLAs of CPI(ML) joined the protest meeting to express their solidarity with the demands of the farm labourers and MGNREGA workers.
The protestors demanded that the government should stop displacing slums in urban areas and huts in rural areas without providing alternative arrangements to them. All the slum dwellers and those living in jhuggi-jhopri should be provided with houses,which is only possible if a new housing policy for the poorest of the poor is made.
The MGNREGA workers have also demanded doubling of their work days to 200 from 100 days and increasing their daily wage to Rs 500. “MGNREGA workers should be provided at least minimum daily wage and they should not get less than the daily wage fixed by the government,” CPI (ML) leader Dhirendar Jha said while addressing the protest meeting .
Jha said the Bihar government should increase the daily wage of MGNREGA workers on the line of neighbouring Jharkhand government. “There should be video recording of the work site of MGNREGA and making of job cards should be made free from the clutch of local contractors and panchayat representatives”.
He said that thousands of rural families in Bihar have been surviving on the earnings of their members working outside the state as migrant workers. The poor families, particularly old people, physically challenged persons and widows in rural Bihar are struggling for livelihood and survival.A latest report on health issue has exposed that hunger, malnutrition and anaemia are common among a large section of people living in rural Bihar.
There are reports of rampant loot, irregularities and corruption in implementation of welfare and development schemes for the poor in rural areas, according to Jha.
CPI (ML) MLA Satyadev Ram said that the poor are being displaced and uprooted forcibly in the name of the ‘jail jeevan hariyali’ mission of Chief Minister Nitish Kumar. There are more than 50 lakh families without documents of household land and they are living for decades on different types of the government land near rivers, ponds, railway tracks, embankments and road side. “We will not allow this conspiracy against the poor. The poor are not getting ration under PDS and their monthly pension.But when I raised this issue in the ongoing budget session of the state assembly, the government responded differently and behaved as if I had raised a useless point.”
Mahboob Alam, CPI (ML) legislative party leader, said that most of the marginal and small land holders, who form the majority of farmers in Bihar, have been forced to leave loss-making farming and migrated outside for livelihood due to wrong policies of the government. It was the state government that abolished the APMC Act in 2006 in Bihar that resulted in heavy loss to the farmers and agriculture. “Farmers are not getting MSP for their produce and then going for distress sale,” Alam said.
Nearly two-thirds of Bihar's total population of 12 crore is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Most of them are small and marginal farmers, as per government data.