Peasants Display Anger Through Strike in West Bengal
From our Special Correspondent in Kolkata.
No work in fields. Peasants in a rally on 4th January in a village in Bankura.
Picture: Madhusudan Chatterjee.
In the backdrop of worsening plight of peasants in West Bengal, with an apathetic Government for last seven months, rural Bengal witnessed a massive protest in the form of an agriculture strike on 4th January. In the first statewide action of this kind, four Left peasant organisations called for stoppage of all agricultural activities and functioning of village panchayats across the State. The peasants, facing severe crisis due to declining prices of their produces, responded to the call with enthusiasm. All activities, relating to agriculture virtually came to standstill in 18 districts. The agricultural workers, whose job is already threatened, also joined in force. Instead of farming, rural Bengal saw rallies, blockades and demonstrations throughout Wednesday.
Last seven months of "change" in West Bengal have brought disastrous consequences for the peasants. The agricultural production witnessed a huge jump during Left Front Government and along with the support from the State Government and panchayats the lives of the farmers and sharecroppers brightened. All those successes have been seriously jeopardized by wrong policies and inaction by the TMC Government. The peasants, burdened under price rise and black marketing of fertilizers and other inputs failed to get remunerative prices of their products. Paddy, jute and potato growers were hit hardest. A spate of farmers' suicides has taken place in agriculturally rich districts like Burdwan. The peasants' discontent has been expressed through the unprecedented strike in rural areas.
AIKS (Harekrishna Konar Bhavan) state president Madan Ghosh has termed the success of the strike 'beyond expectation'. The peasants' protest has come also in the backdrop of reign of terror in many districts and a silent terror in almost every part of the state. The peasants defied the fear and marched in rallies in places. CITU had called upon the rural unorganized working people to join the peasants in strike. In many districts CITU brought out rallies in support of the strike.
Ghosh warned that the peasants would be forced to continue struggles if the State Government failed in their duties. "The Centre has withdrawn subsidy on fertiliser. They are not considering the plight of the farmers while determining the support price for paddy and other agricultural products. In our state more than 12 farmers have committed suicide as they failed to repay the loans they had obtained from money lenders at higher rate of interests. The State Government is not procuring paddy directly from the farmers by paying them the support price fixed by the Centre. We cannot allow the State Government to ignore the farmers and we will support the General strike called by trade unions on February 28," Ghosh said on Wednesday.
He also came down heavily on the West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee for her Government's failure to procure paddy from the farmers by giving them the minimum support price fixed up by the Centre. "The State Government has procured just 2 lakh metric tones of rice against their target of collecting 20 lakh metric tones. Naturally, the farmers are in distress and not in a position to sell their product. Never in the Left Front regime, had such a pathetic situation occurred in our state," complained Ghosh.