In West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee launches agitation over farmer Bills

Published : September 21, 2020 21:45 IST

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee addressing a press conference in Kolkata on September 21. Photo: PTI

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the at the Central government for the manner in which the farmer Bills were passed in Parliament and announced a prolonged agitation against its policies. The two controversial Bills — the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill — were pushed through in Parliament by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government amid loud scenes of protests on September 20. Mamata has urged all political parties that are opposed to the BJP to launch a protest movement against the two pieces of legislation.

Mamata claimed that the new Acts, which await the President’s assent, have robbed farmers of their rights and made them vulnerable to exploitation by middlemen and large landholders. “On the one hand there is the crisis of the coronavirus pandemic, which they [the Union government] could not control, and now they have created another crisis, a food crisis,” said Mamata at a press conference on September 21. She warned that a famine may be looming over the country in the near future.

She pointed out that because of the new Bills, sharecroppers and landless agricultural workers will be denied any assured minimum price for their products. “Poor farmers will be going for distress sales; some will be committing suicide; some will die of starvation. There is corona on one side and on the other side is this Bill which is ‘morona’ (a pun on the Bengali word meaning death). I urge all political parties across the country to launch an agitation,” she said. Emphasizing the need for a united stand against the prevailing situation, the Trinamool chief said, “If in this coalition, Trinamool is needed to stay in the background we are willing to do that. Let the people stay in the forefront. “

Announcing a prolonged agitation that her party will be staging, Mamata said, “We are inviting people from all walks of life to join us in protest…. On behalf of the farmers, I will request the students and the youth to come forward in protest.” On September 22, the Trinamool Mahila Congress (the women’s wing of the party) will be staging a dharna in central Kolkata; the following day students will stage a protest, and after that peasant organisations affiliated to Trinamool.

Mamata also condemned the suspension of eight Rajya Sabha MPs, including Derek O’ Brien and Dola Sen from Trinamool, for protesting against the Bills, saying it exposed the “autocratic” mindset of the Union government. “Suspension of 8 MPs who fought to protect farmers interests is unfortunate & reflective of this autocratic Govt’s mindset that doesn’t respect democratic norms & principles. We won’t bow down & we’ll fight this fascist Govt in Parliament & on the streets,” Mamata wrote on social media.

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