Kolkata: The 72 hours’ long farmers’ dharna in the busy Esplanade area in Kolkata ended on January 23, with farmer leaders from the state extending their solidarity to those protesting against the three farm laws at the borders of the national capital.
The last three days, under the colourful red and green shamiyanas at the venue besides the Lenin statue in Y channel, were filled with protest songs and recitations from Brecht to Safdar Hashmi and Utpal Dutta, in solidarity with the nationwide farmers’ movement.
Protest Plan in Upcoming Days
On the last day of the dharna, Amal Haldar, convenor of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) West Bengal, outlined the upcoming protest actions in the state, under which the Block Development offices and the district towns will be embargoed by the farmers.
“On January 26, there will be kisan parade in every district’s headquarters," he announced during his speech at the venue, adding, "Just like the farmers at New Delhi are leaving no stone unturned till the farm laws are completely repealed, farmers in West Bengal have also resolved to not rest until the same is achieved. As part of our programme, farmers’ jatha will travel to every booth of the state, with the aim of creating awareness and uniting farmers for a pan Indian movement. In the district headquarters as well, 72-hour-long dharnas will be launched to protest against the anti-people policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party government.”
Not only that, he also said that the police and administration will not be able to stall the farmers’ parade on January 26.
Compulsory Paddy Procurement by Govt and 200 Days of Work for Agri Labourers
Haldar also said that that the farmers and agricultural workers will continue to embargo upon the block development offices until the government is forced to procure paddy at MSP and 200 days of work is provided to the workers.
Many farmers who took part in the dharna had several memorable moments with songs of Tagore, Sukanta and the Indian People’s Theatre Association keeping the venue alive throughout the nights. From veteran All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) leader Sanjay Putatunda to Koninika Ghosh of All India Democratic Women’s Association (AIDWA) and Pritha Ta of the Students’ Federation of India, several people sang songs and recited IPTA poetry.
A farmer from the Memary block of Burdwan, Biswanath Shi said, “This windy night is lesser than the cold in New Delhi but our resolve is like our fighting brothers there. We promise that the January 26 kisan parade will be observed in a big way Burdwan with tractors and power tillers. In many other districts with less tractor population like that in South 24 parganas except in Bhangar, motorcycle rallies will be held highlighting the plight of the farmers nationwide.”
Bihar MLA Highlights Farming Problems in His State After Mandi Abolition
A surprise visitor at the dharna programme was Mehboob Alam, newly elected Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) Liberation MLA from Balrampur Assembly segment of Biha. In his speech, he corroborated his experience of the present agricultural spectrum in the state, where the population in the 15-40 years age group is unwilling to undertake farming work, instead opting to migrate to far-flung cities like Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Trivandrum, etc., to find work.
Also read: 'Neither PM Nor SC Can Stall Farmers’ R-Day Parade': AIKS Leader Says in Kolkata; Bengal to Have Solidarity Rallies
He said, “They (the youth from Bihar) are not joining their fathers in the fields but coming back home with some cash and spending a fortnight in their homes before going away. The reason is that farming is no longer a profitable profession after mandis have been abolished and farmers are not getting the correct price for their produce in state.”
Women Farmers’ Turmoil
In her speech, AIDWA state secretary Koninika Ghosh saluted the zeal of the farmers, especially the women farmers in New Delhi as well the participants of the jathas in Bengal. She added that the participation of women in the protest movement in Delhi highlights the plight of the women farmers falling under the dragnet of the economic policies of the current government. “The new farm laws will prove to be a death knell for the entire farming community of the country,” she said.
Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) workers also joined the dharna in solidarity with the farmers, following a protest march to the dharna venue.