Kolkata: At a time when thousands of farmers are agitating at border points of Delhi, demanding the repeal of farm laws, BJP national president JP Nadda launched the Krishak Suraksha Abhiyan at Musthuli village in Bardhaman’s Katwa on Saturday.
In showing concern for farmers, the saffron camp is trying hard to win the hearts of West Bengal electorate.
Nadda’s move, carefully chosen in the rice bowl of Bengal, was in contrast to the mood in Delhi where a clear trust deficit is coming in the way of a resolution in the impasse between the Centre and farmers from north India.
While farmers there are refusing to agree with the government representatives’ offer of amending the laws, Nadda is collecting ‘ek muthhi chawal’ (a handful of rice) from farmers of Bengal as a sign of solidarity with them.
The BJP is well aware of the fact that it was the landless farmers in Bengal, especially those from Singur and Nandigram, who were instrumental in helping Trinamool Congress topple the 34-year Left Front regime in the state and repose faith in Mamata Banerjee.
Isn’t the steely resolve, that the kisans of north India have shown in fighting it out for their rights, natural? The ‘annadatas’ toil in their fields for 365 days, battling unpredictable weather and even more uncertain produce. On top of that, they have to play ball to the demands of the market and middlemen, who are always trying to outwit them with low prices for their produce.
If the government thought the farmers could be pressured and made to toe the government line on farm laws, they were wrong.
The BJP president’s move is seen by many as a political gimmick.
All India Agricultural Workers Union state secretary Amiya Patra said he does not read much into such acts. “I don’t give credence to such gimmicks. Their act of having lunch at a farmer’s house is election-centric. BJP has never been compassionate to farmers’ demand and will never be. Whatever Nadda did was all staged,” said Patra.
Non-profit bodies like PBKMS have also been critical of Nadda’s Katwa show.
“The Right to Food and Work Network-West Bengal (RTFWN- WB) is amazed by the hypocrisy of the ‘ek muthhi chawal’ that BJP has launched,” a press release said.
Anuradha Talwar of PBKMS said: “BJP controls the central government and is sitting on 512.94 lakh metric tonnes of foodgrain. With Kharif procurement still going on, we can only expect this to rise further in the next few days. Does he or his party really need to collect fistfuls of rice to feed the people of Bengal or, for that matter, the entire country? All his party has to do is extend the free ration programme that was started under the PM Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana (PMGKAY) during the lockdown and abruptly stopped after November 2020. Under this programme, each card holder under NFSA, amounting to 60,189,384 persons or 67% of Bengal’s population was receiving 5 kg of free foodgrains per month and later 1 kg of pulses per family per month.”
She added, “Our appeal to political parties in the run-up to elections is to stop the gimmicks; instead, listen to the people’s problems and come up with structural and permanent solutions. For starters, restart the PMGKAY for a minimum of another six months.”