West Bengal: Chaos Ensues Amid Distribution of Cold Storage Bonds for Potatoes in Jalpaiguri
Kolkata: Many farmers were injured after they were reportedly trampled in Jalpaiguri when they were waiting for the allotment of cold storage bonds for their potatoes.
Six cold storage units in Jalpaiguri’s Sadar block started giving coupons on Friday for the potato storage bonds. A large number of farmers were waiting in front of the cold storage facilities since Thursday night to collect the coupons. On Friday morning, chaos ensued at several cold storages. In the afternoon, at the Ganga Cold storage in Sahebbari area of Bahadur Panchayat of Sadar Block, after disbursing potato bonds to about 3,000 farmers, about 4,000 more farmers were still waiting.
The situation became tense when they were told that they would be given coupons later. Authorities tried to move the crowd away from the cold storage, but to no avail. Finally, a large force led by District Superintendent of Police Biswajit Mahatar reached the spot; the Rapid Action Force (RAF) was also deployed to control the situation. The police alleged that when they tried to remove the crowd from in front of the cold storage, stones were thrown at them “without any provocation” and therefore, they resorted to lathicharging. The police also burst several tear gas shells to scatter the crowd.
The district police superintendent said that six rounds of tear gas were fired to bring the situation under control and that a case is to be filed. At least 25 people including two women and 10 police personnel were injured in the kerfuffle.. The injured have been admitted to Jalpaiguri Super Specialty Hospital.
Navin Kumar Agarwal, one of the directors of Sahebbari's Ganga Cold Storage, said, "We were distributing bonds from seven o’clock in the morning; it continued until 2 pm. After the bonds were over, we told the farmers that they will be given again later. Hearing this, the farmers became angry. Vandalism began. The cold storage gate was broken by the agitated crowd. They set fire in front of the gate. Later, the police came and handled the situation.”
However, the local potato farmers say the opposite. Potato farmers Murshid Rahman and Bappi Rahman, residents of Khoparabandi, said, "We stood in line in front of the cold storage from Thursday night to collect the bonds. In the morning, before the bond delivery started, that line was broken. We were pushed way back. At 2 PM, the cold storage announced on the mic that no more bonds would be issued. That's why farmers who were standing in line got angry. Because the police tried to remove us. The tensions escalated as the police lathichaged us without any provocation."
“I cultivated seven bighas of potatoes and Bappi sowed on 18 bighas. We thought we would put our potatoes in cold storage if we got the bond. But on this day, all our plans were ruined. I don't know when I will get the bond,” said Murshid.
It was reported that seven people were injured by the crowd while collecting potato bonds in Mohitnagar cold storage in Jalpaiguri. A similar situation was reported from Cooch Behar's Dewan Ghat cold storage. Later, the police brought the situation under control.
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