December 10, 2023

WB: Massive Three-Day Worker-Peasant Dharna in Kolkata

Subinoy Moulik

“EITHER change the policies or we will change the government”. The three-day workers-farmers dharna called by Central Trade Unions and Federations and the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, held from 26 to 28 November in Esplanade, at the heart of Kolkata, in tune with the countrywide Kisan-Mazdoor Mahapadav held in 25 state capitals of the country, warned the Modi government in Delhi that the fight against the corporate communal nexus of the government will intensify. In this dharna, the pledge was taken to move forward with the unceasing motivation of the historic farmers' movement in Delhi. The leaders present at the meeting said that the united and strong movement of workers, farmers and agricultural workers would be strengthened and spread further. More people shall join the struggle to defend their interests. Not only the Delhi government but also the Trinamool government of the state shall be forced to accept the just demands.

Massive rallies were organised for three consecutive days on Rani Rasmani Road at Esplanade demanding the cancellation of the four anti-worker labour codes, legal guarantee for the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of crops at 1.5 times the comprehensive cost of cultivation, repeal of the Electricity Amendment Bill and prepaid meter system, payment of arrears of MNREGA wages and wage hike, and prevention of price hike. This rally voiced strong protest against various levels of corruption going on in this state. A march to Raj Bhavan was called from this rally. Various speakers addressed the gathering on different days. Similar programme was organised at Siliguri for North Bengal. A presidium comprising the leaders of various mass organisations had conducted the proceedings of the rally.

Speaking at the rally on the first day, CITU state secretary Anadi Sahu denounced the anti-national policies and decisions of the Modi government and said that the Modi government on the one hand is working against the interests of the workers, farmers and working people of the country, and on the other hand, it is continuously attacking the country's democracy and secular credentials. Sahu also said that the Modi government as directed by the RSS is plotting to change India, the meeting place of diverse cultures, into a communal Hindutva state by dividing the people of the country on the basis of caste, religion and language. On the other hand, Mamata Banerjee's government in this state also continues to play a supportive role in implementing the anti-people policies and decisions of the Modi government. No government is paying attention to the terrible increase in the prices of essential commodities. People in various fields have to join a stronger fight against Modi government's misrule. Mamata Banerjee’s government is resorting to unlimited corruption in the recruitment of teachers and other appointments in the state. They are also running the government with a clear anti-worker attitude.

On the second day, the rally was addressed by AIKS West Bengal state committee secretary, Amal Halder. He said that like other states of the country, the life of people of this state in various fields including workers and farmers has come to a miserable situation. Farmers are not getting proper support price for crops. Unable to bear the burden of severe anxiety and debt, many have chosen the path of suicide. The number of unemployed people is increasing by leaps and bounds. People's income is decreasing day by day.  In this situation people are more endangered by the skyrocketing price of essential goods. He also said that although Amit Shah and Prime Minister Narendra Modi come to this state again and again to take advantage of vote politics, they have nothing to say about the real suffering of the working people of this state.   Talking about the various benefit transfer schemes of the state government, he said that through them, people's money is being embezzled in various ways in this state.

From the sit-in protest on this day Subhash Mukherjee, president CITU West Bengal committee has called for intensifying the struggle movement in the coming days.  Bank Employees Federation of India (West Bengal) general secretary Joydeb Dasgupta said that efforts are being made to destroy the country's financial base by destroying the country's state bank system. We have to stop the Modi government's attempt to hand over people's money to the private sector. CITU general secretary Tapan Sen, AIKS leader Hannan Mollah along with various leaders of the SKM-CITU were present at the protest meeting on Rani Rasmani Road.


At the protest rally on September 28, CITU all India general secretary and CPI(M) Polit Bureau member Tapan Sen said that the government's policy has affected the workers, farmers, students, youth, women, and the poor people of the society. Workers and peasants must take the fight against this policy to the stage of resistance. That the workers and peasants have come together to share a common platform and have been able to identify their enemy is a significant progress. This Modi government for the sake of imperialism is destroying and handing over to corporates the economic structure that we have built for 75 years since independence, overcoming many hurdles. Privatisation and selling out our national assets has become the hallmark of the present government's policy. And, unfortunately, this policy is being pursued while chanting nationalistic slogans. The effects of this disastrous process are being reflected in social life. 37 per cent of our population earns about Rs 6000 per month.  Their earnings are such that they find it difficult to make both ends meet.  The majority of the wealth is accumulated in the hands of one per cent of the people of the country. Tapan Sen made it clear that taking control of State-owned enterprises or installation of smart meters cannot be accepted. Government representatives should be questioned and resisted. The protest against such wrongdoing should be taken to the level of this resistance. This work has started. We have thus stopped privatisation in several places. Many more working people must be involved in the resistance struggle.

The gathering practically blocked the entire Esplanade area beyond the intersection of Rani Rashmoni Road. The Esplanade Square was abuzz for three days with a combination of songs and recitations by cultural activists including the IPTA. A memorandum was also given on behalf of the Pensioners’ Association on September 28. The open letter given to the chief minister from the rally was read out. Huge marches from different parts of the city, including Howrah and Sealdah, arrived at the meeting on this day.

At the rally, peasant leader Hannan Mollah said the government has not fulfilled any of its promises. In order to realise all those promises, we have to take to the streets and protest. The fight has to be spread from state to state. About this three-day movement in different parts of the country, he said that workers and farmers have joined hands in resistance, in the whole country. Attacks on the working people by the central and state authoritarian governments have changed form, hence the need for total resistance. Referring to the suicide of farmers and labourers, he said the list of suicides of agricultural labourers is long. Worker layoffs are increasing. The government should be forced to listen to the people by creating a more intense movement against it.

AIAWU leader Tushar Ghosh told the rally that people want an alternative. They want an alternative government that will give a fair price for crops in the country, provide 200 days of employment under MGNREGA (additional 100 days of work), and increase wages. Workers, farmers, agricultural workers will have to fight to realise these demands.

A delegation of workers and farmers from the rally went to the Raj Bhavan and gave a deputation. Among these representatives were Nirapada Sardar, Asadullah Gayen, Prabir Banerjee, Basudev Basu, Deepak Das and Ashok Guha.