West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has threatened a nationwide agitation if the Centre does not withdraw the three contentious laws enacted in September to allow agribusinesses to freely trade farm produce without restrictions.
“I am very much concerned about the farmers, their lives and livelihood. 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,” Banerjee tweeted on Thursday.
Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress will hold a meeting on Friday to discuss their future of course of action.
“…We will discuss how the Essential Commodities Act is impacting common people and resulting in skyrocketing prices. The central government must withdraw this anti-people law,” she said in another tweet.
Farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, have been protesting against the three laws, saying they will hurt their incomes even as the government has maintained they will enhance them. They say the laws are a precursor to the withdrawal of government support for farming and will replace existing middlemen with more powerful corporate entities.
Banerjee also sharpened her attack against the Centre’s disinvestment and privatisation policy saying the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is transforming national treasures into its assets
“The Government of India is selling everything. You cannot sell Railways, Air India, Coal, BSNL, BHEL, banks, defence etc. Withdraw ill-conceived disinvestment and privatization policy. We must not allow treasures of our nation to be transformed into BJP party’s personal assets,” she said.
BJP leader Jay Prakash Majumdar said the Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPI(M), carried out anti-Centre protests for 34 years and Banerjee talks on the same lines. “Will Bengal leaders always oppose the country’s laws and deprive people of the state of the Centre’s welfare schemes.”
CPI(M) leader Md Salim said Banerjee always wakes up late. “The movement has already reached the doorsteps of Delhi. The Left parties have already held a nationwide movement. She is talking of holding a movement when her party is on its way out of power in Bengal.”
Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya blamed the Centre for an alarming increase in the prices of essential commodities and added Banerjee is free to lead the protests. “But she must also ensure that prices of vegetables produced in the state are kept under check.”