09 January 2022

PBKMS team visits Deucha Pachami

A team led by senior activists of the union met people who will face the brunt of the proposed open cast coal mine in Deucha Pachami, Birbhum

PBKMS (Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity) visited a few villages located in the proposed project site of the upcoming Deucha Pachami coal mines in the district of Birbhum in West Bengal. A small team led by senior activist and treasurer of PBKMS, Comrade Kanai Halder visited a few villages in the Mohammadbazar block to interact with the community members who face the threat of eviction. Our visit was facilitated by one of the civil society organizations in the region named PAPA (Project Affected People's Association) which is working amongst the tribal community.   







 

      

06 January 2022

Annual Review Meeting of PBKMS

PBKMS concludes a two-day annual review meeting at Badu training centre

PBKMS (Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity) conducted an annual review meeting with the activists presenting their progress reports and core activities undertaken by the respective district unit. The final membership figures from the block units and the subscription amount collected from each of the district units were collated to arrive at the consolidated membership figure of the union. Reporting systems were reviewed and a common form was proposed to include all the indicators for ease in handling of data. The union also undertook an evaluation of the work of the full-time activists and the district committees. Plans for three consecutive years were laid down and internal fund collection was stressed upon. Crowdfunding initiatives and the collection of food grains from field areas have been discussed. A special membership with higher subscription fees amongst the working middle class will be explored. A one-time special donation from workers of the public works programme will also be taken up to shore up the internal funds. Emphasis has been laid on generating resources to ensure that the union becomes sustainable on internal collection to support a rapid expansion of field areas, which will also entail supporting a larger number of full-time activists. Gradual increase in the subscription amount of members was proposed by the district coordinators with projections of increase in membership figures till 2024. A quarterly progress plan along with targets of the individual districts will be prepared by the secretariat after the respective coordinators conduct a round of consultation with the block and anchal committees.                        

Review meeting in progress at Badu, Kolkata

District plans being presented at the convention centre 

The plan of the union to support rural youths for one year to immerse them in organizing work has also been finalized which will aid us in identifying potential activists in the near future. The youths will be identified by the respective district unit and they will be converging for short stints of classroom training programmes with adequate field exposure and active participation in organizing work. Cultural committee and youth committee meetings have been finalized with the respective coordinators given charge of forming the committees at the district level. The schedule of the annual convention of the union and the nature of the selection of delegates along with other logistical details were conveyed to the participating activists by the organizing committee.  

22 December 2021

Legal Awareness workshops conducted in association with MASUM and others

PBKMS organizes workshops post increase in jurisdiction of the BSF in three states in association with civil society partners

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) in association with MASUM (Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha), RTFWN (Right to Food and Work Network) and other civil society partners organizes a series of workshops, interactive sessions and awareness camps on rights guaranteed by the Indian constitution and legal safeguards provided by the justice delivery system. The need to have such a series of engagements was felt after the recent increase in the operational jurisdiction of the Border Security Force (BSF) was flagged by the civil society as a regressive step in furthering the civil and political rights of citizens. The Ministry of Home Affairs has taken a unilateral decision to increase the jurisdiction of BSF from 15 kilometres to 50 kilometres (from the International border towards the Indian territory) in the states of Punjab, Assam and West Bengal. 

The experience of the populace residing in the areas close to the International boundary with Bangladesh points to the severe restrictions imposed by the BSF which often interferes with the provisions of article 19 of the Indian constitution, guaranteeing certain fundamental rights to the citizens of the nation. The constant presence of 'men in uniform' in villages, which are in no way threatened by any foreign nation in close proximity, limit the access to women to public spaces and may have a negative impact on the psychology of children. The paramilitary force in the areas close to the International boundary with Bangladesh often stands guard deep within Indian territory with reports of increasing interference in livelihood activities and free movement of the populace. Even cases of torture, sexual harassment, enforced disappearances and custodial deaths have been repeatedly highlighted by human rights networks and complainants had to face hurdles in even registering their grievances against the BSF. Hence, the existing experience of the local people raises apprehensions on further curtailment of civil rights after the increase in their jurisdiction. The force has also powers of initiating arrest, search and seizure in their operation areas which draws them into a turf war with the state police force. Apprehensions of high handedness and unreasonable use of such powers have given way to a certain anxiousness amongst the people residing within the present jurisdiction with limited grievance redressal mechanisms in place.

Crucial judgements in the context of the numerous provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) and rights of citizens during lodging of a complaint with the police department have been discussed in the workshops. The need to be vocal in upholding the rights of fellow citizens and the importance of active community involvement have also been stressed to build a democratic resistance against any measures towards curtailment of the rights of people.    

Shri Sujoy Singh Roy from MASUM conducting a session in Raninagar-1 block, Murshidabad     

Com. Uttam Gayen, General Secretary of PBKMS addressing the participants of Raiganj workshop

Shri Kirity Roy, Secretary of MASUM addressing the participants of Raiganj workshop

Shri Kirity Roy, Secretary of MASUM delivering the keynote address at the Badu, Kolkata workshop

The sessions ended with a call to embark on a campaign with the following central demands in association with various civil society organizations and networks in West Bengal:
  • Revoking the decision to increase the operational jurisdiction of BSF
  • Placing the BSF at the zero point of the International border and not in villages on the Indian side

01 December 2021

PBKMS protests against the increase in operational jurisdiction of the BSF

Civil Society organizations submit deputations at regional centres of the BSF in West Bengal to protest against the unilateral decision of the union home ministry to increase the jurisdiction of the paramilitary force

On the occasion of the 57th Raising Day of the BSF (Border Security Force), PBKMS (Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity) and numerous civil society partners submitted deputations under the banner ‘Amra Simantabasi’ (We the border people) at their regional centres in districts across West Bengal. In Kolkata, we took out a protest march from Minto Park which culminated at the paramilitary force’s Eastern Command headquarters with the submission of a deputation to the commanding officer.

The union ministry on 11th October, 2021 brought out a notification proclaiming an amendment of a 2014 notification to extend the jurisdiction of the BSF to 50 kilometres inside Indian territory from the international border in Punjab, West Bengal and Assam. The paramilitary force will now be able to conduct search, seizure and arrest up to 50 kilometres inside Indian territory which will be similar to the imposition of martial law on a large number of residents. We condemn the unilateral decision of the central government to infringe upon the subject of law and order which is an exclusive domain of the state government. The political leadership also did not feel the need to initiate a dialogue with the opposition as well as the civil society to discuss the need for bringing out the notification.

The population residing at the border areas have also complained about the high handedness of the stationed BSF personnel time and again and civil society groups have brought out shocking incidents of violation of human rights ranging from illegal detention to torture and violation of the dignity of women.    

We have stated the following demands in the deputations and demand charter submitted to the BSF officials:

  • The paramilitary force should remain at the International border and make sincere efforts to prevent any disruption in the normal lives of the residents of bordering areas. The continuous presence of armed personnel in villages should be avoided.
  • All complaints on violation of human rights by the paramilitary force should be impartially probed.
  • As ordered by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in the Anuradha Bhasin case, section 144 should cease to be continuously in force in the border areas.
  • The notification of the union home ministry on the increase in jurisdiction of the paramilitary force should be revoked immediately.
  • Often the lands and ponds of the farming community fall on the other side of the barbed wires. They should be allowed access to them from 06:00 hours to 18:00 hours. 
  • The paramilitary force should adhere to its constitutional limits and uphold the fundamental rights of the population residing at the border areas, especially the provisions of Article 14 (Right to equality), Article 19 (Freedom of movement in Indian territory) and Article 21 (Right to life).

After submission of the deputation in Nadia

Members before a procession to the main camp of BSF in North 24 Parganas

We are also organizing workshops and awareness camps for our activists, coordinators and the general membership of the union residing at the border areas to discuss the implications of the concerned notification. Various provisions of the CrPC (Code of Criminal Procedure) and the constitutional rights of Indian citizens will also be taken up for discussion to enable people in seeking redressal against possible grievances on the operations of the BSF in the areas under their jurisdiction.


In solidarity:

Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Manch

Members of Right to Food Network, West Bengal

PSU

Shramajivee Mahila Samity

SDTU

AIKKS

Bandi Mukti Committee

Friends of Democracy

RYF

AIRSO