6th Conference of the Paschim Banga Krishak Samiti Held
The Paschim Banga Krishak Samiti (West Bengal Peasant Association) held its 6th Conference with an open session in Bardhaman followed by a two-day delegate session on 15-16 February. The conference took note of the acute agrarian crisis and resolved to impart a fresh impetus to the peasant movement in the State. Comrade Dipankar addressed the open session while Comrade Rajaram Singh, convenor of AIKSS (All India Peasant Coordination Committee) inaugurated the conference. Comrade Kartick Pal, PBM and several other leaders of the Party’s West Bengal State Committee also attended and addressed the conference.
The delegates at the Conference included those who have come to us from the ranks of the CPI(M) in recent times. There were also signals that the rural poor who had gone over to the TMC in reaction to the CPI(M)’s betrayal of the peasantry, are getting fast disillusioned by the TMC’s approach to the peasants’ questions. Among those who addressed the Conference was a leader of the Singur movement, who reminded that the whole Singur struggle had centred around the demand that 400 acres of land that had been grabbed without consent be returned to the peasants. Now, even the TMC which had made political capital from the struggle had shelved this demand – a demand that continued to move the peasantry to struggle.
On the eve of the Conference, a delegation of Krishak Samiti leaders had met State Agriculture Minister Naren De to demand fixing of the procurement price for potato at Rs 6 per kg, to address the distress of potato farmers who were now selling at an extremely low price even as potato prices in the market were high.
The Conference took up the issue of the reversal of land reforms in the State, whereby diversion of agricultural land and eviction of peasants was a state-wide phenomenon. Delegates discussed, in particular, how sharecroppers were being evicted in Dinajpur and in South 24 Parganas too, sharecroppers were being evicted to make way for prawn farming. The Conference demanded security of tenure and land ownership for sharecroppers, lowering of land ceiling as recommended by the report of the Expert Committee on Land Reforms appointed by the Ministry of Rural Development, as well as agricultural credit, irrigation, fertilizer, electricity and other kinds of support for sharecroppers and small peasants.
The Conference elected a 63-member state council and a 21-member state executive including Comrade Annada Prasad Bhattacharya (President), Comrade Altaf Hussein (Vice President), Comrade Subimal Sengupta (General Secretary), as well as five secretaries.
Implementing a call given from the Conference, the Krishak Samiti held a state-wide road blockade demanding fixing of Rs 6 per kg as procurement price for potato and protesting the rise in prices of fertilizer.
Rickshaw-pullers’ Protest in NOIDA
Hundreds of rickshaw-pullers in NOIDA held a protest demonstration on 16 February to press for their demands of licenses and recognition of their right to livelihood. Thousands of them, mostly migrant workers, live in grave insecurity. They toil and provide important service to the urban population but ironically the status of their labour is rendered illegal, and they are easy targets for the police. The licenses to them have not been issued for long time by the Noida authority. Moreover, a precondition for licences is to provide proof of residence and identity, which is impossible to get as being migrants they have no property in the city.
In this backdrop, after a few months planning and mass work a Rickshaw-pullers’ Union was formed in NOIDA last month which received a very good response from among them. A week-long mass campaign was then undertaken, culminating in a protest demonstration on 16 February, which was attended by nearly 200 rickshaw-pullers. The demonstrators submitted a memorandum to the City Magistrate Noida, the same official in whose presence the rickshaws were crushed under a bulldozer.
The protesters demanded license to all rickshaw-walas, return of seized rickshaws and compensation for the ones crushed by the bulldozers, and an end to the repression by police and the administration. They also demanded compensation and guarantee of alternate livelihood if at all evictions are to be considered in very special cases.
The demonstration was led and addressed by rickshaw-union leader Suresh Paswan, CPI(ML) activists Shyamkishore Yadav, Govind Uniyal, Ramesh Kori, Madheshwar, Nandji Yadav, Delhi State Secretary Sanjay Sharma and many others.
Street Vendors in Delhi Hold Convention
The Delhi Rehri-Khokha-Patri Mahasangh held a Convention on 21 February demanding guarantee of livelihood and licence for every street vendor under the new National Vendor Policy. They demanded democratisation of the Town Vending Committees through elected representation; enhanced representation of vendors and removal of representatives of market associations and RWAs. Because identity cards are being made a precondition for issue of licences, many poor and migrant vendors are in danger of losing their livelihood since the Delhi Government has made sure they get no identification.
The Convention was addressed by Shyamkishore Yadav, President of the Delhi Rehri-Khokha-Patri Mahasangh, Vice President Ramsevak, Secretary Md. Shakil, treasurer Md. Shafi as well as Sanjay Sharma, State Secretary, CPI(ML), as well as AISA activists from Jamia Millia Islamia and JNU. The Convention was conducted by Uma Gupta of AIPWA. Through the Convention, the street vendors submitted a memorandum to the Delhi CM, opposing the plans to evict them from the streets in preparation for the Commonwealth Games, and demanding guarantee of livelihood