West Bengal Assembly passes a resolution expressing solidarity with the protesting farmers in Delhi and demanding the repeal of farm laws

Published : January 28, 2021 22:32 IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee leaves the State Legislative Assembly Building in Kolkata on January 28. Photo: DIibyanshu Sarkar / AFP

The West Bengal Legislative Assembly passed a resolution on January 28 voicing solidarity with the protesting farmers in Delhi and demanding the repeal of the three controversial Farm laws—the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

The resolution stated that the laws were for the benefit of business houses and against the interest of farmers. “As a result of these laws there will arise a situation where the government will not be able to purchase the agricultural produce, the public distribution system will break down, food security will be hampered, and illegal hoarding and blackmarketeering will be encouraged.” It further stated that in the prevalent scenario where the whole country was united in protest and the common people were worried, “this House cannot remain a silent spectator”.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government at the Centre should either step down or repeal the farm laws. Expressing solidarity with the protesting farmers, she blamed the Centre for the violence in Delhi on January 26. “It was an Intelligence failure. We will not tolerate farmers being branded as traitors,” she said. She also appealed to the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front and the Congress to set aside their differences with her and support the resolution.

Though the Left and the Congress did not oppose the “main spirit” of the resolution, they expressed their dissatisfaction with the delay in passing the resolution and the rejection of the amendments suggested by them. Sujan Chakraborty, leader of the Left Legisltature Party in the State Assembly, told Frontline: “From September 24 onwards we had written four times to the Chief Minister to have a discussion on this very issue. Now, when other States have already passed resolutions, mass movement against the laws have gained momentum and the government of India is contemplating keeping the laws on hold for the time being, the Chief Minister decides to finally pass this much belated resolution.”

Sujan Chakraborty felt that the resolution itself appeared half-hearted and precipitated by political compulsions. He pointed out that the rejection of certain amendments suggested by the Left and the Congress made the resolution look weak and lacking in political will. He told Frontline: “We had asked for an amendment stating that the manner in which the Bills were passed was undemocratic; that the way the States were not consulted was an infringement on the rights of the States by the Centre; and that the State will take legal measures to protect the interest of the farmers if necessary. But none of these suggestions was carried forward.”

The Left also demanded that the West Bengal Agricultural Produce Marketing (Regulation) Act, 2014, be scrapped as “the same reasons for opposing the Central laws are applicable for rejecting the State law”. The State law also provides for the establishment of private market yards for “direct purchase and sale of agricultural produce”. However, the difference between the State and the Central law was that in the case of the former, a licence has to be obtained from the State government.