The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dal with rice sermon to farmers

Barabazar (Purulia), Nov. 16: Continuing his mantra for change, this time at rural centres, chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee today urged farmers of Purulia district to diversify so that their capacity to earn increased.

Over 30,000 farmers gathered at this small town, 35 km south of Purulia this afternoon from all over the district to hear Bhattacharjee, whose speech set the tone for the 15th All-India Krishak Sabha Sammelan, a two-day meeting of the CPM’s agriculture wing.

“Cultivating only rice will not do. Crops like various types of gram (dal), vegetables, fruits and flowers, as well as dairy farming and poultry will have to betaken up so that situations like drought in this water-scarce district and growing unemployment can be overcome,” he said.

“The tomatoes grown here are good. We have discussed ways by which the crop can be stored throughout the year so that it could fetch good prices. A cold storage will be built soon near Barabazar for the purpose. Conservation of water and irrigation would also have to be improved,” he said.

He stressed that through the 26 years of Left Front rule, “our main aim has been to help the small and poor farmers.”

It was their support in Bengal’s rural areas that helped oust the landed Congress leaders in 1977, he said. “Now, 80 per cent of the land is in their hands. But farm wages would have to improve. In Burdwan, the wages had increased to Rs 80, whereas it was still at the Rs 30-40 level in Purulia. But there has been some improvement here since my first visit in 1960s. Access to drinking water is better, farmers have clothes, including warm clothing, they ride cycles and motorcycles and live in pucca houses. It indicates that some funds are available, which is good. If the demand increases, industry will also grow," Bhattacharjee said.

In fact, many parts of his 30-minute need-for-change speech had strong tinges of capitalism and consumerism. Simultaneously, the need for better running of panchayats and cooperation of the administration was sought.

“I have spoken to the local leaders. The sammelan will take up various developmental issues for the farmers. What we cannot do, we will not talk about. But we will talk about what we can do and do it,” Bhattacharjee exhorted.

He said that people at the lowest levels of poverty would be issued cards from November 28 that would entitle them to rations at very low rates, free health and education.

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