West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday threatened to start a country-wide stir if the farm laws were not withdrawn immediately. Her remarks came amid the farmer agitation that has been continuing for the last eight days.
“I am very much concerned about the farmers, their lives and livelihood,” she said in a series of tweets. “GOI [government of India] must withdraw the anti-farmer bills. If they do not do so immediately we will agitate throughout the state and the country. From the very start, we have been strongly opposing these anti-farmer bills.”
The chief minister said that she has called a meeting of the Trinamool Congress on Friday to discuss how the Essential Commodities Act – one of the three farming laws – is affecting people and resulting in “sky-rocketing” prices.
Banerjee also criticised the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Centre over its disinvestment and privatisation policies, saying that the government was selling everything. She demanded that the government withdraw the “ill-conceived” policies. “You cannot sell Railways, Air India, Coal, BSNL [Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited], BHEL [Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited], banks, defence, etc,” she said. “We must not allow treasures of our nation to be transformed into [the] BJP party’s personal assets.”
Banerjee’s statement came on the day the farmers were holding a second round of meeting with the Centre over the contentious legislations. The talks held on Tuesday had remained inconclusive. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar along with Minister of State for Commerce Som Parkash was representing the Union government.
Tens of thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana, have camped out at the entrance to Delhi for the eight consecutive day to reverse the agricultural legislations, which they fear could pave the way for the government to stop buying grains at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.
The farmers are protesting against the three ordinances – Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion & Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, The Farmers (Empowerment & Protection) Assurance and Farm Service Ordinance 2020 and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020 – that were passed in September. They were signed into laws by President Ram Nath Kovind on September 27.
Left Front, Congress urge Banerjee to convene Assembly session
Meanwhile, the Left Front and the Congress urged Banerjee to take the necessary steps to convene an Assembly session amid the farm law protests and the rising prices of essential items, reported PTI.
In a letter, Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sujan Chakraborty and Congress’ Abdul Mannan urged the chief minister to take note of their appeal. “If states like Kerala, Punjab, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan can convene Assembly sessions to take alternative legal measures against the farm bills, why cannot we do the same to protect the interest of the farmers?” they asked.
Chakraborty and Mannan also pointed out that prices of several essential items have exponentially risen. “Essentials, including vegetables, are now beyond the reach of common man,” the leaders said. “A discussion on this issue is very much the need of the hour.”