Patna: In a show of unity among farmers, farm labourers and workers, thousands gathered at the Kisan-Mazdoor Mahapanchayat against three farm laws in Patna on Thursday. Expressing solidarity to the protesting farmers at Delhi borders, the mahapanchayat took place in the sprawling premises of the Gate Public Library in Gardanibagh. About one and a half kilometres from the protest site is the Bihar Assembly, where the Left parties’ MLAs staged a protest against the farm laws one hour before the Kisan-Mazdoor Mahapanchayat formally began on Thursday afternoon.
The Kisan-Mazdoor Mahapanchayat demanded scrapping of the three farm laws by the central government and demanded the NDA-led government in Bihar to pass a resolution against the three farm laws in the state Assembly.
This Mahapanchayat also demanded the legalisation of minimum support price (MSP) and restructuring of the APMC Act in Bihar to help the distressed farmers who have been forced to migrate outside in search of livelihood and ended up as exploited workers. The Kisan-Mazdoor Mahapanchayat was jointly organised by the Communist Party of India (Marxist Leninist) [CPI (ML)], Akhil Bhartiya Kisan Mahasabha and Khet Mazdoor Sangh.
Leaders at the Mahapanchayat extended full support to the Bharat Bandh (countrywide strike) on March 26 against the farm laws and urged the farmers, farm labourers, workers and others to mark it as a historic one.
Addressing the Kisan-Mazdoor Mahapanchayat, CPI(ML) general secretary Dipankar Bhattacharya said the three farm laws were not only against the farmers but also anti-poor and anti-people. He said that the laws will not only turn farmers into slaves of corporate, but it will also end the right to food security, PDS and different nutrition schemes. It is a fact that three farm laws would hit hard poorest of the poor, labourers and workers, Bhattacharya added.
He said the ruling alliance of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Janata Dal-United had betrayed the farmers since it came to power in 2005 and within a year, in 2006, it repealed the APMC Act. It pushed farmers under stress and debt, he added.
The CPI (ML) leader said farmers should be provided with the benefit of Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Yojana. He cautioned the gathering saying that the BJP was trying to confuse the movement by raising the debate of small vs big farmers.
Most of the 12 CPI(ML) MLAs of Bihar participated in the Mahapanchayat.
Gurnam Singh Bakhi, a farmer leader from Punjab, in his address said farmers have been protesting against the farm laws on the borders of Delhi since November 26 despite restrictions imposed by the government. "I came here to tell you that the fight against the three farm laws is not only of farmers of Punjab and Haryana. This is a fight to save and protect our farmlands from the corporates and it is a fight to live and die,” Bakhi said.
Bakhi said that it was high time that farmers across the country joined hands and united to save farmlands going into the hands of corporates and to get MSP, which was their genuine right.
The Kisan-Mazdoor Mahapanchayat was attended by the Opposition Mahagathbandhan leaders including those from the CPI(M), CPI, and RJD.
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.
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.
Agriculture is considered 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.