Kolkata: Over 50,000 farmers and agricultural workers from across West Bengal held a huge rally in the city on Saturday, condemning the politics of the caste, creed and religion and calling for all agricultural sector stakeholders to be united against the ‘kisan’ identity to unitedly for their rights.
Marching with red flags at the call of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU), the peasants and agricultural workers, marched from the Howrah and Sealdah stations to Rani Rashmoni Avenue, calling an end to the anti-peasant mindset of the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party government at the Centre, “supplemented” by the Trinamool Congress-led government in the state. The slogans and demands called for allocation of minimum support price (MSP), end to TMC “hooligans who work as fleecing middlemen in the agri-commodity trade in the state, exploiting primary producers.”
Addressing the farmers, AIKS general secretary, Hannan Mollah, said “on one side there was a ‘government for the criminal, by the criminal and of the criminal in West Bengal’, while on the other side, at the Centre there was a ‘government by the communal forces, for the communal forces and of the communal forces, and both were exploiting millions engaged in agriculture in the country,”
Mollah pointed out that in case of any product sale, the sellers control the decision on the price of the produce, except in the case of peasants, who had to depend on external forces to set a price for their produce. “This is wrong,” he said, adding that the Swaminathan Commission’s Formula of C2 +50% as the right MSP should be implemented instead of the present A2 +FL formula being applied for deciding MSP.
“Let us bring all those engaged in agriculture under the humane Kisan identity, instead of religion, caste or creed-based identity. Such an identity can unify the country and has got the capacity shaking the entire establishment, which is behaving like lapdogs of proponents of neo-liberal economic policies,” Mollah said.
Mollah also announced a solidarity programme on September 5 on the struggles of the working as also by youths in the state who have been demanding jobs and employment opportunities.
Bimal Mondal of Bankura’s Shaltora area, who attended the rally, rued that the state government announced scheme, Krishak Bandhu, or any other scheme, were “all on paper”. To avail benefits of any scheme, a “hefty 30% cut money has to be paid to TMC hooligans,” he said.
In the rally, rich tributes were also paid to the memory of the 80 ‘Martyrs of the Food Movement of 1959’, who had bled to death in Kolkata’s streets after being “thrashed by police batons during the then rule of the Congress-led state government, as they committed the crime of coming to the capital city of the state to demand government food supply to millions of hungry people in the state”.
Out of the 217 ‘martyr’ farmers who committed suicide, a fact that has been denied by the then state government, family members of 43 of those farmers joined Saturday’s rally and narrated on the stage, their ordeal and huge debts to private institutions and moneylenders.
Pratima Karar, the widow of a potato grower, Sanjoy Karar of Hooghly, who committed suicide two years ago, broke down while narrating her her ordeal said her husband killed himself after a failed crop and crash in potato price, as he had taken a Rs 3 lakh loan from Bandhan Bank.
Many members of the 43 affected families alleged that TMC’s reign, unlike that of previous Left Front government, had ushered in an era of “nightmares” for them, adding that “many more families would suffer the same fate if the state government does not intervene, as it did during the Left Front’s rule.”
Amiya Patra, the state AIAWU secretary, said when “one country, one law” is being pushed by the BJP-led central government, why were the set of laws different for peasants, while business barons like Ambani and Adani were getting lakhs of crores of loan waivers.
Patra also said that while West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee was giving Rs 25,000 per Durga Puja committee, the same Rs 70 crore would have ensured four eggs per day in mid-day meals to school children, adding that the scheme was in dire straits for want of funds.
Amal Haldar, state secretary of AIKS, called upon peasants to prepare prepare for waging more intense struggles so that the governments – Centre and state – were forced to bow down to collective pressure.