Kolkata: On the lines of farmers’ protest in Maharashtra and ongoing All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)’s Kisan Long March in New Delhi, the farmers under Pashchim Banga Pradeshik Kishan Sabha (WBPKS), an older organization than the AIKS took onto the streets of West Bengal to express their anger and anguish. The march, which was also described as Singur Kisan March had huge participation of farmers from Singur. The two day long march culminated on Thursday, a day ahead of the Kisan Long March in Delhi.
Around 50000 farmers assembled in front of Raj Bhavan, Kolkata on November 29, after having traveled on foot from Singur and other parts of the state, crossed the Howrah Bridge to finally reach Rani Rashmoni Road where it was joined by another large contingent of farmers from Sealdah. The crowd was addressed by CPI (M) leader Surjya Kanta Mishra, WBPKS State Secretary Amal Halder and AIAWU State Secretary Amiya Patra.
The presence of farmers from Singur, made the march a significant one for Bengal. For Singur was made the focal point of the Mamata Banerjee’s protest against the forceful land acquisition of farmers in both Nandigram and Singur. It was this mass mobilisation by Banerjee which had played a vital role in bringing down the decade old communist party regime in Bengal.
Ironically, when the Mamata Banerjee led Trinamool government is almost on the threshold of completing a decade, the peasants from the same area gathered to draw the attention of her government, demanding them to take initiatives to set up industries on lands that had been acquired for the purpose from all over Bengal, including Singur. As the land, which was once fertile, over the years had turned barren.
The long march which had commenced from Singur on the morning of November 28, was addressed by All India General Secretary of AIKS, Hannan Mollah. He addressed the farmers and inaugurated the long march too.
On the morning of November 29, several thousand farmers from different districts started marching towards Howrah Bridge from Bally. When the march finally reached Howrah Bridge, the participation got multiplied.
The demands of farmers include implementation of the recommendations made by the Swaminathan Commission, waiver of all agricultural debts, guarantee of 200 days of work with a daily wage of Rs. 350 under the MGNREGA Welfare Scheme, a pension of Rs. 6,000 per month for old farmers above 60 years of age.
Amal Halder, state secretary of WBPKS said, “Out of the 997 acres of land that had been acquired, only 11 acres are arable. Agriculture is not possible in the remaining 986 acres of land. As many as 187 farmers have committed suicide due to the burden of huge debts under the Mamata Government. The state government is taking no steps to uplift the condition of the peasant class.” He added that Bengal at present needs industry to flourish. “Around 986 acres of land cannot be cultivated so industries should be set up in these zones. It will definitely the economy of the state,” said Haldar.
Agitating farmers complained that Mamata Banerjee had come to power with the promise of returning land to the farmers. But she also destroyed the Tata motors factory that was ready to operate, and would have provided employment to thousands of people in the area. She did not keep any of the promises she had made as the opposition leader of the state, maintained the farmers.
The efforts that the farmers are taking to make themselves heard across India, is an indicator of the fact that it is high time that both state as well as the central government to take initiatives along with listening to the woes of the farmers and make things conducive for the agrarians in India.