New Delhi: For several decades the rural economy of India has been in ruins. Since 2014, a slew of anti-rural and anti-farmer measures taken by the NDA government at the centre has made conditions worse. In West Bengal, the ruling party TMC has been in government since 2011 but they too have been neglecting the rural economy, even while mouthing pious platitudes. In this situation, it is not surprising that West Bengal perhaps leads the nation in sending jobless rural people to other states, for bare survival. The lockdown due to Covid pandemic was the last nail in the coffin of rural Bengal. Millions of migrant workers were compelled to become jobless, income less and helpless and had to return back to their villages, facing bleak and uncertain future. During the lockdown, farmers of Bengal could not sell their ready produce of fruits, vegetables and perishable items because of lack of transportation, market connectivity, market closure and overall drop in demand leading to crash in prices. As if things were not bad enough, then came Super Cyclone Amphan, which blew away whatever little hope and sapped whatever little resilience that rural people had. In short, like the rest of rural India, rural West Bengal faces an unprecedented and unimaginable crisis which includes crisis of food, shelter & livelihood.
In these circumstances, it is the duty of the elected representatives of rural people, namely the gram panchayats, panchayat samitis and zilla parishads, to find creative solutions to the problems facing people and to work relentlessly to implement these solutions. Unfortunately not much appears to have been done by the panchayats and zilla parishads, which is a complete failure arising out of negligence of those who have been elected from the grassroots through the three tier panchayat system.
Swaraj India has decided to launch Aahar, Ashray & Aay Aandolan of rural people in West Bengal as the situation here is perhaps among the worst in the country. As the first step of this movement, Swaraj India has submitted memorandum of demand relating to food, income and health security of rural people to the Sabhadhipatis of 12 District of Bengal, namely Alipurduar, Bankura, Birbhum, Coochbehar, Hooghly, Jalpaiguri, Malda, Paschim Medinipur, Purba Medinipur, Purba Bardhaman, Purulia and Uttar Dinajpur.
Swaraj India will soon send such memorandums to the Sabhadhipatis of the other districts of West Bengal. If no meaningful action or response is received from the zilla parishads, Swaraj India will call upon people to launch mass agitations at the panchayat level to compel their elected representatives to fulfil their constitutional and statutory duty of serving people in this hour of grave crisis.