People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 11

March 18, 2007



Massive Kisan Rally Calls For Industrial Growth


Massive Kisan Rally in Kolkata


B Prasant


A KISAN rally organised by the Bengal unit of the AIKS filled out the expanse of the Brigade Parade grounds, and beyond, and raised a strong slogan in favour of industrial growth. The rally held on March 11 also underlined the importance of building up an industrial structure on the solid agricultural and agrarian base that have come into being under the successive United Front and Left Front governments of Bengal. The assemblage of a vast array of kisans from all over Bengal, made the rally a very memorable occasion in the annals of the democratic movement of Bengal.


Kisan leader Ram Narayan Goswami presided over the rally where the principal speakers were chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee and AIKS leaders Benoy Konar, Dr Surjya Kanta Mishra (who is also the Panchayat minister of the state), Samar Baora, and Abdur Rezzak Mollah (who is also the land and land reforms minister).


Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee told the gathering amid cheers that wherever land would be acquired for industrial purposes, be it Singur, Nandigram, or Salboni, alternative livelihood for the peasants, khet-mazdoors, and bargadars would be assured. Stringently critical of the opposition who would choose the path of rabid violence to try to disrupt the process of industrialisation, the speaker pointed out that the message that the opposition worthies would communicate to the state government was that it should stick to agriculture and not go in for any kind of developmental programme.


The verdict of the people – massive and significant – in favour of the Left Front during the last assembly elections, noted Buddhadeb, was not a mandate for the state government to go into hibernation having come to office. The people in unison have called for progress and development and in front of this popular demand, the Left Front and the Left Front government will always bow low and go ahead with industrialisation. 


The opposition political outfits and their running mates in the NGOs were out to incite the people on false premises and fallacious arguments, said Buddhadeb and he went on to point out that it was moral and bounden responsibility of the democratically-elected government to provide rehabilitation in adequate measure to those affected by the land acquisition — land owners, bargadars, khet mazdoors, and the rural poor.


Wherever industrial units would grow, said the CPI(M) Polit Bureau member, so would employment and general economic development. Drawing examples, the chief minister said that the Rs 35,000 crore steel projects at Salboni in Midnapore would create jobs for no less than 15,000 men and women. Similarly, employment would be created at places like Singur and Nandigram, as elsewhere. “We always consider what we gain and what we lose when we go in for industrialisation” was how Buddhadeb would put it.


Congratulating the Bengal unit of the AIKS for ‘this very timely rally of the kisans,’ Buddhadeb said that through a series of mass assemblages and marches, people would be mobilised and the importance of industrialisation stressed. Castigating the opposition outfits for shunning the path of democracy and resorting to violence and anarchy, Buddhadeb said that it was a ridiculous that even as the Singur factory was well on its way to being set up in a viable manner, a few of the lumpen elements of the Trinamul Congress, the Naxalite factions, and the SUCI would attempt in a futile manner to uproot a few posts and set fire to them before being chased unceremoniously away by the irate and furious local populace.


Speaking on the developments that had occurred earlier at Nandigram, Buddhadeb said that it was always the desire and plan of the Left Front government to develop Nandigram like Haldia, which was but a stone’s throw distance away across the Haldia River. Haldia now accommodates an employment base of 40,000 people, the base expands almost every month as more and more investments pour in. The chemical hub in Nandigram region would create growth and employment opportunities in large measure.


The opposition hoods have disrupted peace at Nandigram, indulged in killing workers of the CPI(M), and have sought to isolate the place by disrupting road communication. The police as instructed have shown great restraint in the face of dire provocation. A false propaganda is launched that the chemical hub would mean the loss of every piece of available land parcels at Nandigram and would see places of worship and burial taken over. The people of Nandigram must be explained about the reality. However, if the people of Nandigram continue to oppose on this issue, ‘we would have to go ahead with the chemical hub project away from Nandigram, but the project will certainly be a reality,’ declared Buddhadeb.


Benoy Konar addressing the massive kisan rally at Brigade Parade grounds. Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee is also seen


Strongly refuting that the drive for industrialisation had become a fight between political parties, Buddhadeb said the issue at stake was the future of the state and its population, especially the younger generation. For purposes of employment and economic growth, what were needed were industries, infrastructure, urbanisation, health facilities, and electricity. Unless the existing pressure on agriculture was lessened, the level of income of the mass of the people would never go up. The additional components dependent on agriculture must be shifted away to industries and services, and the drive brooked no delay.


Lauding the role of the AIKS, Buddhadeb said that the situation in the state had changed for the better with the land struggles led by the AIKS. Land has been redistributed among the rural poor. The political equation in the villages had changed with the Congress and its running mates loosing their political grip over the rural areas. Prodigious progress has been made in agricultural production. A lot more progress needs to be made. Nevertheless, the economy must not be kept dependent on agriculture alone. Industrialisation would move ahead apace on the base created by the development in agriculture.


Benoy Konar said that an issue intimately associated with the process of industrialisation was agricultural, multi-crop land. A sign of success of the Left Front government has been that agriculture has spawned across the entire state, the geographical location of the districts notwithstanding. Thus, for any industrial project to be set up, some amount of agricultural land would have to be acquired. The issue is being used as an excuse by the opposition and their abettors to create obstacles on the path of development. The principal aim was to finish off the Left Front. 


Benoy Konar recalled that during the Congress regime in Bengal millions of acres of prime agricultural land was acquired for industrialisation and urbanisation. The Left, which knew the Congress very well, would not oppose the process of development. When the Left Front government was coming forward to set up industries like the thermal-power station at Katwa in Burdwan and the steel project in Purulia, the opposition would rise in unison to resist the procedure. 


Benoy Konar also iterated what he has been saying throughout and consistently. With pressure of population increasing on land under crops, the kisans themselves were compelled to sale off land parcels. More than 33 lakh sale deeds had been signed over the last three years. Industrial development would create 15-20 times the employment presently found in a plot of land.


Singur was a practical example of the large change in the pattern of employment once agriculture was shifted to make place for industries. Benoy Konar reminded the rally that those who would blackguard the LF government for industrialisation today were the same forces who opposed the United Front government redistribution of land away from the zamindari concentrations. The opposition are on the backfoot at Singur where the people have come around to appreciate the industrial policy of the Left Front government. The terror-tactics of the opposition continues at Nandigram. Patience must be practised and the rural masses made to realise the truth of the matter.


Dr Surjya Kanta Mishra said that the route to development was from villages to cities and from agriculture to industries. He exemplified to say that Kolkata was originally a cluster of three villages. In no instance however, the solid agricultural base of the state would be disturbed or compromised in any manner. It is never that there would be no kisans—indeed some members of the kisan families would continue to do agricultural work with some other members of the family going in for work in the industrial sector. This will effectively reduce the pressure of population on agricultural land. 


Dr Mishra asked the kisans not to underestimate the conspiracies being hatched against the Left Front and the Left Front government. The struggle ahead would not be an easy one. Every villager must be approached and the basis of the industrial policy explained carefully. The anti-development brigade must be thoroughly isolated from the masses.


Evolving the theme of ‘from agriculture to industries,’ Samar Baora pointed out how in Burdwan years ago, graduates and other highly-educated young men and women would seek jobs desperately, and they all belonged to kisan families. The attraction that a kisan nurtures for the land he tills is also accompanied by the desire to ensure that the educated boys and girls of the family seek employment in the industrial and the service sectors. 


The AIKS leader noted that the opposition were out to foil the industrial drive after having failed to check the agricultural growth in Bengal. Those who shed crocodile’s tears for the kisans in Bengal would not bother to go to Rajasthan and Kalinganagar where kisans and adivasis were being butchered. The AIKS has collected funds for the kisans in plight in other states and stood firm in solidarity. The kisans were firmly united in Bengal to insist on industrialisation based on the agricultural success the state has continued to enjoy.


Relating the importance of industries for the kisans, Abdur Rezzak Mollah said that setting up of cold storages, an industrial project, would help rather than hinder agricultural growth and for such projects, investments were necessary. Agro-industry, said the speaker, was a necessity for development and diversification of agricultural production itself. Industrialisation would also help the process of the kisans getting remunerative price regimes for their produce. Industries would also mean employment, something that the agricultural land plots could not provide to the pressure of population being brought to bear all the time. Rezzak Mollah also called upon the kisans to maintain vigil against the communal propaganda being indulged in by a section of the opposition to create disruption in the rural stretches. 


Ram Narayan Goswami expressed surprise at the way the kisan-sympathiser brigade of the opposition would not hesitate to oust thousands of kisans from hearth-and-home at Nandigram and elsewhere. He called for patience and consistency among the kisans to ensure that the process of industrialisation went relentlessly on.