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After Mumbai and Delhi, Left peasant fronts march to Kolkata demanding relief, industry in Singur

The programme started outside the last remains of the Tata small car factory in Singur where Mamata Banerjee organised a movement against land acquisition for Tata Motors’ Nano project during the Left regime.

kolkata Updated: Nov 29, 2018 21:24 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee
Tanmay Chatterjee
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Kisan March,Kolkata,West Bengal
Thousands of farmers and Left supporters crossing the Brabourne Road flyover after entering Kolkata on Thursday. (Samir Jana/HT Photo)

Buoyed by back to back success of the Kisan Long March by peasants in Maharashtra in March and the protest by Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) in New Delhi last month, the peasant fronts of CPI(M) and other Left parties organised a two-day march in Bengal that ended on Thursday with a rally in the heart of Kolkata.

Through this movement, Left leaders are hoping to mobilise opposition party workers, before Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah flags off his party’s Rath Yatra in Bengal on December 7. “If Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee is serious about fighting BJP let her prove it by arresting BJP leaders before the Rath Yatra just like Laloo Prasad Yadav did in Bihar in 1992,” CPI(M) state secretary Suryakanta Mishra said at the rally.

The farmers walked from Singur in Hooghly district, crossed the Howrah bridge and reached Rani Rashmoni Road near Raj Bhawan, residence and office of Bengal governor Keshari Nath Tripathi. The programme started outside the last remains of the Tata small car factory in Singur where Mamata Banerjee organised a movement against land acquisition for Tata Motors’ Nano project during the Left regime.

The Tata project was aborted and shifted to Sanand in Gujarat where Narendra Modi, then chief minister of the state, inaugurated the plant in June 2010. Incidentally, many farmers in Singur haven’t got their land back yet and the Left wants to use this as an issue in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.

The ‘Singur to Raj Bhavan’ procession, organised by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU), was part of the all-India ‘Kisan Mukti March’ which will conclude in Delhi on Friday. The Delhi movement is organised by the All India Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella organization of around 180 unions.

”Singur farmers can use only a tiny fraction of the 997 acres that was acquired and subsequently returned two years ago. But the Trinamool government did not return the plots in cultivable condition. In Singur, farming no longer provides jobs, something the Tata plant could have done. Like other states, farming in Bengal is suffering because of higher input costs and absence of a guaranteed sale price for paddy, jute, potato and vegetables,” said AIKS state secretary Amal Haldar.

At a rally in Purulia district on Wednesday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said, “In states such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh, farmers commit suicide by the thousands. But in Bengal we help them by waiving khajna (land tax) and offer loans for buying equipment.”

However, in Bengal too, more than 100 farmers have commit suicide over the past few years. But unlike drought-prone regions in central and western India, farmers in Bengal suffer problems such as excessive fragmentation of land, erratic rainfall, lack of a support price and scarcity of storage facilities.

BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha said the march was a desperate attempt by Marxists to stay afloat. “Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee (the former chief minister) forcefully acquired fertile land in Singur and sealed the fate of the farmers. Trinamool stole the spotlight by opposing the move, but only after people had lost their land. Since the Left came to power through the agrarian movement, it is now trying to rake up new issues to save its relevance,” said Sinha.

“We were expecting a gathering of 50,000 people in Kolkata. But the turnout on the second day exceeded our expectations,” said AIAWU State Secretary, Amiya Patra. He claimed the number could have been higher had it not been the harvesting season.

“Growing paddy is no more a viable option for us because production cost is far more than the sale price most of the time,” said Rabindranath Ghosh, a farmer who came from Burdwan.

First Published: Nov 29, 2018 21:24 IST