The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bloc fires farmer salvo at CPM

Purulia, Feb. 1: The All-India Forward Bloc, an important constituent of the Left Front in Bengal, today criticised Big Brother CPM for ignoring efforts to strengthen Front unity and considering policies that would harm farmers.

Speaking during an open session at the inauguration of the sixth All-India Agragami Kisan Sabha, state Forward Bloc secretary and agriculture minister Kamal Guha said his party has decided not to enter into any agreement with the CPM over seat-sharing in the forthcoming panchayat elections.

“There is no need for any agreement. We will not squabble over allotments and will accept whatever they offer and grant them as many seats as they want. But one thing will have to be remembered: farmers’ interests will have to be given prime importance,” Guha said before a crowd of almost 10,000 people at the MSA stadium grounds here.

“I would like to tell Biman babu (Front chairman Biman Bose) to sit down and fix your policies. Equal importance will have to be given to issues and proposals concerning farmers. We have seen in many cases that the panchayat members, the BDOs and the district magistrates get more importance than the tillers of the soil.”

He told the gathering — comprising mostly farmers and farm labourers who had trudged up to 40 km from various villages to attend the meeting — that the time had come to “reassert and understand your identities and your roles, which have so far been thrust upon you”. Dangers were looming in the form of foreign powers (the US) and organisations (the World Bank and IMF) imposing various tariffs and trade restrictions, he warned.

The Bloc secretary also spoke of the harm that would come about if farmers entered into contract agriculture.

“McKinsey arrived and stressed on developing luxury crops. But what about the basics' At the end of the 10th Plan, eight crore people will have to be fed in the state, otherwise the Front won’t remain in power. So far, we are getting food. But at the rate at which farming land availability is decreasing, this will be endangered. Agricultural land cannot be sacrificed for any other purpose.”

Commenting on colleague and finance minister Asim Dasgupta’s advice to mop up taxes from whatever sources, Guha said the Bloc would not allow any sort of cess to be collected from farmers. “We will have to take up ways to tackle the government’s financial crisis and Asim’s empty coffers. Aamra ki fau e byabsha korchhi lal jhanda tule (Are we in the business for free after raising the red flag)'” an agitated Guha asked.

“As a result, the government considers the CPM as its “chokher moni (the pupil of the eye), while the partners are the chokher bali (dust in the eye),” the Bloc leader alleged.

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