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. TMC 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groups from Haryana and Punjab, they shared their demands, and they were clear that they wanted the farm bills (laws) repealed," O'Brien said.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 Trinamool Congress (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of the BJP, had on Thursday threatened to launch a country-wide agitation if the "anti- farmer" farm laws were not withdrawn.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 "We demand that these laws be withdrawn.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 here.
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 BJP 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 "TMC had passed similar bills in West Bengal assembly few years' ago, that it is opposing now," Ghosh said. 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.