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Trinamool, RJD to hit the street in farmers' support

December 04, 2020 23:52 IST

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday spoke to various groups of agitating farmers at Delhi's Singhu border and announced a series of street protests from next week in Bengal in solidarity with their demand for repeal of the new farm laws.

Meanwhile, the opposition Rashtriya Janata Dal in Bihar on Friday said it will take out a demonstration in Patna on Saturday in protest against the agriculture bills, which have triggered massive protests in northern parts of the country.

 

Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha leader Derek O' Brien met the agitating farmers at the Singhu border in the afternoon.

He spent almost four hours with the agitating farmers and facilitated interactions over the phone between Banerjee and various farmers' groups.

"The CM spoke to the farmers. Four telephone calls to different groups from Haryana and Punjab, they shared their demands, and they were clear that they wanted the farm bills (laws) repealed," O'Brien said.

He said Banerjee told the farmers that she and TMC will stand by them in this movement demanding a repeal of the 'anti-farmer' laws.

"They (farmers) thanked the CM for her show of solidarity. They also expressed their gratitude for all her support to farmers and land movements in the past," he said.

Banerjee had led the protests against acquisition of farmland at Singur and Nandigram.

"It was a very emotional meeting. The farmers' groups were aware of the laws and knew exactly what they wanted -- the repeal of the anti-farmer laws," O'Brien said.

Later in the evening during a closed-door meeting of the party, Banerjee asked the Farmers and Agricultural Front of TMC to hit the streets across the state from next Monday demanding withdrawal of the farms' laws.

She asked TMC's farmers' wing to stage a three-day sit-in demonstration in front of the statue of Mahatma Gandhi in central Kolkata from December 8 and she will address the gathering on Wednesday.

Earlier in the day, Banerjee tweeted '14 years ago on 4 Dec 2006, I began my 26-day hunger strike in Kolkata demanding that agricultural land cannot be forcefully acquired. I express my solidarity with all farmers who are protesting against draconian farm bills passed without consultation by Centre #StandWithFarmers.'

The Left Front was in power in the state at the time of the Singur movement.

Banerjee, a vocal critic of the BJP, had on Thursday threatened to launch a country-wide agitation if the 'anti-farmer' farm laws were not withdrawn.

TMC MP Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar alleged that the new farm laws are 'unconstitutional' and were passed to help the corporate houses.

"We demand that these laws be withdrawn. These laws were passed not to help the farmers, but to help the multinational and corporate houses. It is the BJP's intention to sacrifice the interest of the farmers to serve its own," she told reporters in Kolkata.

Enacted in September 2020, the three farm laws are anticipated to usher in reforms in the agriculture sector by removing middlemen and allowing farmers to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

Farmers are apprehensive that these laws will instead eliminate the safety net of the minimum support price (MSP) mechanism and do away with mandis that ensure earning.

The government has on the other hand said the MSP system will continue and the new laws will give farmers more options to sell their crop.

Reacting to TMC's allegation, West Bengal Bharatiya Janata Party president and MP Dilip Ghosh termed it as 'baseless' and accused the ruling party in the state of 'shedding crocodile tears' for the farmers ahead of the assembly poll.

"It is the TMC government which is unable to take care of farmers of the state. Every year the farmers of the state suffer losses due to TMC's policy," he said.

The senior BJP leader said, "The TMC had passed similar bills in West Bengal assembly few years' ago, that it is opposing now."

In Bihar, the RJD's state unit chief Jagadanand Singh made the announcement at a press conference in presence of leader of the opposition Tejashwi Yadav, saying, "the dharna will be held at Gandhi Maidan, in front of the statue of the Mahatma whose vision is under attack from the proposed legislations which intend to give a leeway to big private players in agriculture sector".

Addressing the press conference, Yadav appealed to farmers across the state to lend their support to the ongoing stir, claiming that Bihar's agriculture was already under stress because of the Nitish Kumar government's more than a decade-old move of scrapping the APMC mandis and authorising PACS (primary agriculture credit societies) for procurement.

"It needs to be realised that the government in the state has been brazen in violating the interests of farmers. The new system has put them at a clear disadvantage. And the chief minister's party has shown its priorities by supporting the contentious bills in Parliament," Yadav alleged.

He also mocked his bete noire Sushil Kumar Modi, a former deputy CM and senior BJP leader, who is set to enter the Rajya Sabha, for raising doubts over the intent of the agitating farmers.

"If indeed the intent is doubtful, he should tell us why is his party's government holding talks with the agitators," Yadav said.

He expressed anguish over the 'obstinacy' shown by the Narendra Modi government in coming out with a written assurance that minimum support price will remain protected, even after the bills were passed by Parliament.

"Pressure is mounting. The Akali Dal which has been the BJP's oldest ally, quit the NDA and its minister Harsimrat Kaur gave up her post in protest against the bills. Parkash Singh Badal has returned his 'Padma Vibhushan'. But, the government seems unmoved," the RJD leader said.

Replying to a query, Yadav denied that the RJD was joining the bandwagon of protests after these hogged much limelight and Left parties, his allies in the state, held a nationwide stir on the issue earlier this week.

"We had hit the streets in protest against the bills way back on September 25. I was very much present, driving a tractor as part of the procession. Our poll plank during the assembly elections was 'padhai' (education), 'kamaai' (employment), 'dawaai' (health care) and 'sinchaai' (irrigation) in which concern for the agricultural class was implicit," he added.

Since the protesting farmers landed at the gateways of Delhi last week, the government has held two rounds of talks with their leaders to resolve the deadlock.

The next round of talks is scheduled to be held on Saturday.

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