Widespread protests against controversial farm Bills that the Centre recently pushed through Parliament were held across West Bengal on Friday.
While the Left Front and the Congress held joint demonstrations and organised road blockades in different districts, the farmers’ wing of the Trinamool Congress staged a sit-in on Mayo Road in Kolkata.
In the evening, the Left and the Congress organised a rally in the capital. Congress leaders Abdul Mannan and Pradip Bhattacharya, and Left leaders such as Biman Bose, Manoj Bhattacharya and Sujan Chakraborty participated in the march from Shyambazar to Dharmatala. Congress activists burnt copies of the legislation, and shouted slogans against the BJP government.
While the Opposition has claimed that the bills will harm farmers’ interests and benefit corporate groups, the NDA government has asserted that the proposed laws will be beneficial for farmers and increase their income.
“This black law has to be withdrawn. We will never accept it. It is against the interest of farmers. The BJP government is only interested in ensuring profit margins for big corporate houses,” said Sujan Chakraborty.
“All over India, farmers today came out on streets to protest against the agricultural policy of the BJP. They are protesting against the corporatisation of agriculture. We are also protesting this jointly. Both Congress and Left Parties are protesting this across the state jointly,” said Mannan, who is the Leader of Opposition in the state Assembly.
Cong, Left, TMC vie for rural electoral pie
The protests against the farm Bills are perhaps the last opportunity for the Left and the Congress to consolidate and expand their vote bank ahead of next year’s Assembly elections. TMC, whose rural votes have eroded with the rise of the BJP in the state, is also vying for farmers’ support. The BJP, however, is confident that it is in the ascendant and these demonstrations will not stymie its advance.
His party colleague Pradip Bhattacharya, who is a Rajya Sabha MP, said, “The anti-farmer Bills if brought into effect will not spare any small and marginal farmers, including those in Bengal.”
CPI(M) farmers’ wing “Sara Bharat Krishak Sabha”, and those of other Left partners such as the CPI, the Forward Bloc and the RSP held rallies in the rural belts of districts such as Hooghly, Murshidabad, North 24 Parganas, Bankura and Nadia, and blocked roads.
At some places, participants carried vegetables and agricultural produce and shouted slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister of Agriculture Narendra Singh Tomar.
The state unit of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the farmers’ outfit affiliated to the CPI(M), said national highways were blocked at 92 places and state highways were blocked at 89 places. More than six lakh farmers and other people participated in the protests, it claimed.
“The massive response to the ‘Pratirodh Diwas [Day of Protest’] is a clear warning to the arrogant Narendra Modi-led BJP government and the message is loud and clear. Peasants and workers will build the broadest possible unity to resist with all its might the efforts of the BJP to facilitate corporate loot and profiteering at the expense of farmers. AIKS congratulates all sections that came out in such huge numbers in solidarity with the peasantry,” said AIKS General Secretary Hannan Mollah.
At the Mayo Road sit-in, the Trinamool Kisan o Khetmojur Congress displayed agricultural produce and made an Indian map symbolising a paddy field. The ruling party has been protesting against the Bills since Tuesday.
State minister Becharam Manna, who is the president of the outfit, said, “We are constantly agitating against the Centre’s agricultural policy. The farm Bills are in fact black laws. People are protesting against it and supporting us.”
At many places, TMC activists shouted slogans and burnt copies of the Bills. Farmers affiliated to the party vowed not to allow corporates enter the agri retail chain in the state.
With PTI inputs
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