Singur Red Wave Occupies Kolkata with Demand for Farm Prices, Jobs
Remunerative prices for farmers and industrial jobs for rural youth - these were the twin complex challenges that 50,000 farmers and agricultural workers threw at the authorities from a mega rally in central Kolkata on Thursday.
The two-day long 'Singur to Raj Bhavan' campaign, which culminated at Rani Rashmoni Road, was marked by the extraordinary energy and vitality of farmers, both women and men, youths and concerned citizens who turned up at the venue to express their solidarity. All attention, however, remained on the thousands of people who undertook the 52-km long Padyatra from Singur. The image of Bengal's farmers waving thousands of Red flags while crossing the iconic Howrah Bridge swiftly went viral, as rally participants sent real-time updates, photographs and videos on their phones. By 2 pm, thousands more farmers, from North and South 24 Parganas, started marching from Sealdah at 1 pm. The massive congregation started an hour later, with CPI(M) West Bengal State Secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra, All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) State Secretary Amal Halder, All India Agricultural Workers' Union (AIAWU) State Secretary Amiya Patra, AIAWU State President Tushar Ghosh addressing the gathering.
The 'Singur to Raj Bhavan' campaign was jointly organized by the West Bengal units of the All India Kisan Sabha and All India Agricultural Workers Union. This was a corollary to the all India 'Kisan Mukti March', that started in New Delhi on Thursday. The New Delhi farmer mobilization is being organized by the All India Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) an umbrella organization of more than 200 organisations.
However, the massive mobilization of farmers, Bargadars and agri workers in Kolkata highlighted the crises in West Bengal's rural sector, which so far has gone unnoticed. In the last seven years, 187 farmers have been driven to suicide in the state. Investigation by AIKS members indicated that the peasants were trapped in a complex cycle of debt; however, since 2014, at least 12 states, including West Bengal, have made startling claims of zero farmer suicides in their respective states.
Like elsewhere, farmers in West Bengal are also reeling under the combined pressure of debt and lack of remunerative prices. The bigger worry for farm households is the near total lack of rural employment for their children. In this context, the Singur March becomes significant as it remains a testimony to the deliberate destruction of industry. Left leaders at the rally strongly condemned the Trinamul Congress for running a campaign against Tata Motors' small car manufacturing project in Singur, and forcing them to abandon the plant. The situation in SIngur is bleak as landholders who gave up their plots can no longer cultivate on the destroyed soil, even as their children scrounge around for jobs. For this reason, they are demanding re-industrialisation of the land they sacrificed for the people of Bengal. In West Bengal, in the last four years, 57,000 acres of agricultural have been turned into wasteland as farming becomes unviable.
Mishra strongly condemned the present Trinamul Congress government for its failure to create employment in the state and for its pro-farmer pretense. He said, instead of focusing on core issues, both Trinamul Congress, and now BJP, are now playing dangerous communal games. "The TMC- BJP nexus continuously trying to dismantle the secular fabric of the state. BJP is supposed to carry out three Rath Yatras from the three different corners of West Bengal. We warn them, that if they try to destroy communal harmony and peace, then people of Bengal will simply smash their raths," Mishra also remained confident that the number of people coming for the Brigade Rally of the Left Front on 3rd February, 2019, will far exceed the crowds ferried in by Trinamul or BJP.