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WB: Union Govt. Destroying the Federal Structure in the Ongoing Andh Kaal, Says Pinarayi Vijayan

Vijayan made the remarks while addressing a massive rally in Bijoyananda maidan in Howrah on the occasion of the open session of the 10th conference of the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU).
Photo from Sandip Kerala CM Pinarayi bijayan giving speech in AIAWU rally in Howrah  photo by Shubho chatterjee

Photo from Sandip Kerala CM Pinarayi bijayan giving speech in AIAWU rally in Howrah  photo by Shubho chatterjee

Howrah: "Earlier, they promised Acche Din (good days), but we have been having Bure Din (bad days). Now, they say that this is Amritkaal, but I say that this is Andhakaal," said Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan in Howrah. 

Vijayan made the remarks while addressing a massive rally in Bijoyananda maidan in Howrah on the occasion of the open session of the 10th conference of the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU). 

One of the workers attending the rally was 61-year-old Rahul Amin from the Durganagar region of the Malda district. He grows maise, jute and mustard on his two bighas of land. However, farming doesn't bring sufficient income for his family of five. Hence, Amin also works as an agricultural labourer at around Rs 200/day; his wages are low compared to the official rate of Rs 294/day. 

"The promises made by the state government are yet to materialise. Agriculture is a lossmaking venture now," Amin said. He particularly noted when Vijayan said that a Kerala worker makes Rs 1000/day, while unskilled agricultural labourers make Rs 700/day in the state.

"What Kerala is doing concerning the wages of agricultural workers is a dream-like situation for us in West Bengal. Despite high inflation in the market, we make around Rs 200/day, making it difficult to survive in these difficult times," Amin said. Amin was joined at the meeting by five of his fellow workers from the same village. 

Bharat Baul, a 62-year-old agricultural worker from Dadpur village in the Hooghly district, has around three bighas of land where he grows vegetables. Like Amin, Baul also earns around Rs 200/day. 

"Only a strong movement will help us get the stipulated minimum wage of Rs 294/day. The big landlords (ones with more than eight bighas of land) are also struggling due to inflation. Agriculture is unprofitable for everyone," said Baul, adding that it is far-fetched to imagine West Bengal having a social security mechanism like Kerala. 

"What the Left Democratic Front (LDF) government does in Kerala will not be replicated by the Trinamool Congress government (TMC) here. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and TMC are the closest allies of the rural rich in West Bengal," Baul said. 

Swaroop Majhi, a 40-year-old agricultural worker, echoes Baul's words, adding that many farmer suicides in West Bengal because agriculture is no longer sustainable. 

Addressing the workers, Vijayan further said, "The Left parties have always warned about the dangers of liberalisation policies. Right from the beginning, we were confronted with a question: what economic policy can you suggest as an alternative to liberalisation and globalisation? We presented alternatives. The LDF government in Kerala is an example within the limits of our federal structure." 

Vijayan mentioned that Kerala has emerged as a frontrunner in several areas over the last six years because of LDF's alternative policies. 

"Kerala is the first to attain the Sustainable Development Goals as per the statistics released by the United Nations and the NITI Aayog. We have been repeatedly adjudged as the best governed and least corrupt state by the Public Affairs Index. As per the National Crime Records Bureau, we are the only state in the country with no communal incidents during this period. We have the best school education, the best public health facilities, the best law and order, the least infant and maternal mortalities and so on. We are differently-abled friendly, the best tourism destination, and the best Startup ecosystem, and our 'Year of Enterprises' programme has been acknowledged as the best practice in the industry by the Union government. We are taking over Central PSUs in the state being sold by the Centre and making them profitable." 

Furthermore, Vijayan said that the Kerala government had created the most jobs, around 30,000. 

"We have revised wages in almost all sectors. According to the most recent RBI Report, Kerala's daily wages are the highest in the country. At Rs 1,600/beneficiary, our welfare pension rates are the highest in the country and benefit around 63 lakh people. We have provided housing to around 3,25,000 families since the LDF Government assumed office in 2016. The support price for paddy has been raised to Rs 32, the highest in the country. We have even set up a floor price for fruits and vegetables. Not even the leading agricultural states in India have done this. We even set up a Welfare Fund Board to care for our farmers. Even though there has been high inflation across the country, Kerala has the lowest inflation. Those who experience multi-dimensional poverty are the lowest in Kerala."

Vijayan presented these examples as proof that LDF's alternative policies ensured development and welfare while resisting communalism and neoliberalism. 

Kerala is achieving all this despite the severe neglect and discrimination faced by the state from the Union Government. 

"BJP is consciously trying to destroy the country's federal structure. Repeatedly, laws are enacted by the Parliament on subjects in the state list in the Constitution, be it law and order, agriculture, cooperation, power, etc. Bills that infringe upon the rights of the states are being enacted into laws even without seeking the opinion of state governments. Even while entering into international agreements that affect the states, the Union government does not inform state governments, let alone seek their consent. Slogans such as 'One Nation One Tax', 'One Nation One Uniform', 'One Nation One Election' and 'One Nation One Language' are all attacks on our federal structure."

Vijayan stressed that such attacks are most acute in the states ruled by governments opposed to BJP and RSS (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh). 

"Such attacks are being carried on even by politically misusing the office of Governor. Widespread efforts are on to take control of the higher education sector through the Governors in their capacity as Chancellors. Assent to legislation enacted by the state legislatures is being withheld. Such affronts on the supremacy of state legislatures weaken not just our federal structure but even our democracy too. Democracy should be protected if the values that we fought for during our freedom struggle are to be secured."

Vijayan commented on the recent Income Tax (IT) raid on BBC (British Broadcast Corporation) in Delhi. 

"You must have noticed that the government authorities raided the BBC office recently. What prompted them to do it? As everybody knows, BBC did an expose. Provoked by it, its office was raided, with scant regard to the concept of the freedom of media. Instead of examining the findings of the media, the Union government is resorting to retaliatory steps which are detrimental to freedom of expression," Vijayan said. 

Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPIM) West Bengal state secretary MD Salim, in his speech, exhaled the daily wage earners present in the early by asking them to fight against the state government in West Bengal and the Union government led by BJP. 

A Vijayaraghavan, president, AIAWU, and B Venkat, secretary, AIAWU, also spoke at the rally along with Tushar Ghosh, assistant secretary, AIAWU. AIAWU vice-president Amiya Patra presided over the rally.

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