With a Death Toll, Movement for Food Security Intensifies in Bengal

Santwan Chattopadhyay

THE movement demanded legitimate food grains for all, the movement protested the TMC-BJP joint conspiracy of eliminating eligible people from rationing system and the movement in Bengal has already witnessed martyrdom of Swapan Malik due to the attack of TMC hooligans.

When the BJP eliminated almost four crores of people in the name of National Food Security Act (NFSA), the TMC had never voiced protest. 9 crore 23 lakh people were covered by the rationing system in Bengal and NFSA will cover only little less than 5 crore 49 lakh of them. That is clear elimination of almost four crores of people from the rationing system.  What the TMC government is doing in the name of food security is unprecedented in Bengal. Mamata Banerjee has announced that her government will arrange to give ration to little less than additional 1 crore 22 lakh under Rajya Khadya Suraksha Yojna (RKSY). RKSY has two parts – the first part covering little more than 53 lakh people will be enjoying the same rate as NFSA, but the second part covering little less than 47 lakh people will have to pay more which will ensure almost Rs 3 crores of income for the state government in a week. That shows how the TMC government is operating against public interest. The fraudulent digitisation of ration card and tumid projects of state and centre actually have become instruments of eliminating eligible people from the rationing system instead of making the process inclusive. This has caused legitimate anger and agitation among the people and CPI(M) led the battle from the front, intensified movement demanding inclusion of every eligible person in the rationing system. Various Leftist mass organisations have organised agitation programmes in different districts of Bengal to protest against the administration and demanding food security for the common people.

On one hand, huge numbers of people were eliminated from the rationing list and the few persons who have received digital cards showed several faults. Most serious fault is that as these digital cards are not showing full address the address proving value of the ration cards will cease to exist in the coming days. That will create serious problems for the general especially poor people to prove their residential address. The anger therefore not became confined only within the people who have been eliminated but the holders of new digital cards also came ahead. The protest and agitation spread in the whole state of Bengal.

In the meantime, Mamata Banerjee yielded due to the pressure mounting due to spontaneous movement and declared ration will be available to all who used to get earlier but that only turned the situation even more complicated. The ration shops had shortage of supply and moreover the verbal assurance of the CM was not substantiated by any order. The ration shop owners chose to not open the shop in huge numbers due to public wrath.   

On February 11, 2016 in Raina of Bardhaman district, during the deputation in demand of legitimate food grains and protest against mismanagement in distribution of new digital food security cards and ration cards by the Mamata Banerjee-led TMC government, the TMC-backed hooligans attacked the assembly and bombs were hurled at them. While 19 people sustained injuries in the attack, Swapan Malik (50), an agricultural labourer by profession, succumbed to his injuries. CPI(M) state secretary and leader of opposition Surjyakanta Mishra tweeted, "Instead of legitimate food grains, Swapan Malik of Raina is killed by TMC hurled bombs. His blood must not go in vain. Intensify struggles."

The struggle truly intensified. In all corners of the state, people protested against the killing of Swapan Malik. People of the state also observed the protest day on February 14, 2016. The martyrdom in the movement for food security in Bengal certainly has taken the people of the state to the Food Movement of 1959 where 80 people were bludgeoned to death on the spot and hundreds left injured when people assembled in demand of food in Kolkata. Is the state heading towards another food movement? If this is the question, the answer will be: the people have unified to achieve their demand by throwing away the autocratic regime in Bengal.




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