Singur will be Ground Zero from where 10,000 farmers, Bargadars and agricultural workers will kickstart the ‘Singur to Raj Bhavan Abhijan’, on November 28, to highlight the series of crises engulfing the agrarian sector in West Bengal. They will be joined by 40,000 others from various parts of the state, who will also conduct rallies and campaigns throughout November 28 & 29 to draw attention to the serious problems faced by farming communities.
The ‘Singur to Raj Bhavan’ campaign, which is being jointly organized by the West Bengal units of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU), forms an important part of the all India ‘Kisan Mukti March’, that will culminate in New Delhi on November 30. The New Delhi farmer mobilization is being organized by the All India Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) an umbrella organization of nearly 180 unions.
AIKS general secretary, Hannan Mollah, will inaugurate the march from Ratanpur, Singur, on November 28, where 10,000 people from various districts of south Bengal will converge. Among them, 2,500 people will proceed towards Kolkata via Bally in Howrah. The local people of Bally have enthusiastically agreed to open their homes for the farmers to rest for the night. Workers and members of AIKS and AIAWU will be working round the clock to facilitate the journey of the farmers, by co-ordinating their food and resting arrangements.
On November 29, nearly 16,000 farmers and agricultural workers will convene at Bally Ghat to start their march towards Kolkata. They will be joined by rallyists from East & West Medinipur and other districts and together, these 37,000 people will cross the iconic Howrah Bridge around half past noon, and proceed towards Rani Rashmoni Road in central Kolkata, where they will be met by their counterparts from North & South 24 Parganas and Nadia. CPI(M) State Secretary Dr. Surjya Kanta Mishra, AIKS State Secretary Amal Halder, AIAWU State Secretary Amiya Patra, AIAWU State President Tushar Ghosh will address this gathering of 50,000 farmers and workers. AIKS State President Nripen Chowdhury will preside over the meeting.
Explaining the problems that are unique to West Bengal, especially Singur, Amal Haldar said: “The farmers of Singur are able to cultivate only a paltry 11 out of 997 acres of land acquired by the West Bengal Government for the automobile manufacturing project of Tata Motors. More than two years ago, this land was ‘returned’ to land-holders after a Supreme Court order, but the state government failed to hand over the plots in a cultivable condition, as mandated by the court. The landholders and youth of Singur are now in extreme distress, as farming is no longer viable in this area and jobs, which the auto plant was supposed to generate, cannot be created. With their land reduced to waste, the people of Singur now want industry to be kickstarted.”
Speaking of those who are engaged in agriculture, Haldar said: “Like other states, in West Bengal too, the input cost of farming has increased manifold and farmers are forced to sell paddy, jute, potato and vegetables at bare minimum prices. Even MSP has become a mere dream for the growers, Farm suicides, which were unheard of under the Left Front government, has taken root in West Bengal. At least 187 farmers have been forced to commit suicide in the state, due to financial crisis.”
Accusing the present government of failing to address the twin challenges of the agrarian sector and industrial job creation in a holistic manner, Amiya Patra said:
“The Chief Minister has been given enough time to address the farm crises and unemployment issue, but has failed to deliver. This government has neither succeeded in returning Singur land in a cultivable condition to farmers nor could they set up the industry. Most shockingly, in the last four years, 57,000 acres of farmland have been turned into a wasteland in West Bengal. Instead, the state government continues to take dubious decisions. Nearly 100 acres of fertile land in Haringhata, Nadia, was handed over to e-commerce giant Flipkart, when non-fertile land in Raghunathpur, Purulia, was available for the purpose. Moreover, the government is busy wasting public money organizing various festivals but fails to pay crop insurance premium, on behalf of farmers. The Chief Minister’s trips to foreign countries, apparently to attract investment, has not yielded any result up till now. The farm sector in West Bengal is being crushed by the harsh policies of both the Centre and the State and this simply cannot be tolerated.”
Focusing on the effort put by the Left Front government in shifting West Bengal from agrarian prosperity to urban job creation, Tushar Ghosh said:
“The Left Front government had created the New Town-Rajarhat belt as part of a planned urbanization process. But when in Opposition, Mamata Banerjee used to give daily calls for returning the land. Now after becoming Chief Minister, she has been hosting government-sponsored festivals in New Town. This is sheer hypocrisy. She is neither Kisan-friendly nor is she able to carry forward the initiative of industrialization taken up by the Left Front Government.”
With such serious issues at hand, the run-up to the ‘Singur to Raj Bhavan’ campaign is gathering momentum. Members of AIKS and AIAWU have been organizing grassroots rallies in various districts, village group meetings and street corner campaigns across the state to mobilize support for the #SingurKisanMarch. Volunteers from all walks of life are pitching in on social media platforms to create awareness about the Singur to Raj Bhavan Abhijan, through graphics, posters, videos, WhatsApp messages. Eminent citizens from the Arts and political leaders have been sending their messages in support of the farmers, these too are being circulated widely.
Farmers are drawing attention to the list of demands, which include:
- Take initiative to set up industries on lands which were acquired by the State Government for industrialization including Singur
- Work for all
- Stop discrimination among Singur’s farmers, peasant and bargadars in providing Government welfare schemes
- Implementation of the recommendation of the Swaminathan Commission. The State and Central government will have to buy crop at a rate of one and a half times the cost of production
- All agricultural debt must be waived
- Ensure 200 days of work and Rs 350 /day wage in MNREGA welfare scheme
- All poor people above 60 years must be given a minimum of Rs 6000/ month pension
- Strict action must be taken against all corrupt public functionaries in the state and Centre