27 September 2021

PBKMS and SMS take to the streets to enforce the ‘Bharat Bandh’ called by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) and Shramajivee Mahila Samity (SMS) have been at the forefront in campaigning against the ‘anti-people' farm legislation brought in by the current political dispensation at the centre. The scant regard for the opposing views on the provisions of the legislation has led to their ratification without proper debates and discussions in both houses of the parliament. The definite tilt of the legislations towards corporatization of the Indian agriculture sector spells doom for the small and marginal farmers. A calculated omission of the minimum support price mechanism along with the intention of dismantling the Agricultural Produce Market Committee(s) exposes the vulnerable agricultural households to fluctuating market prices. Contract farming provisions disregard the in-equal power relations between a small farmer and a corporate entity which may often result in exploitation of the former due to virtually non-existent monitoring mechanisms. The impact on food security will also be massive with the farm legislations foretelling the gradual retreat of the state from ensuring food security of the nation through the public distribution system. The latest amendments carried out in the Essential Commodities Act, 1955 removes the restrictions on stocking of certain essential commodities which may certainly lead to hoarding and increase in retail prices of such commodities with a direct impact on the food basket of vulnerable households. 

Hence, on comprehending the ‘pro-corporate bias in the recently ratified farm legislations we have begun our struggle against their forceful imposition without taking into consideration the concerns raised by our farmers. On every call given by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha and farmers’ associations, we have expressed our solidarity with the cause and planned as well as executed campaigns along with other civil society organizations across West Bengal.

16 August 2021

Celebrating India's 75th Independence Day

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity celebrates the august occasion of the nation's 75th Independence Day with much fervor across its field areas in more than 12 districts in the state of West Bengal. The block and district units hoisted the national flag and speeches on the significance of the day were delivered by our senior activists. We are in the middle of an ongoing national campaign demanding the rollback of draconian sedition and anti-terror laws while reiterating the constitutional framework guaranteeing freedom of speech and expression of citizens. The campaign was launched just after the denial of bail to the late Jesuit priest and activist Fr Stan Swamy which led to his untimely death. 'Right to Dissent' has been the campaign's theme, which is leading a dialogue amongst fellow citizens on state-led repression of dissenting voices and penchant to frame dissenters under sedition and terror laws, denying them the right to seek redressal under usual provisions of the Code of Criminal Procedure. 

Our block and district units read out 'pledge' declaring our unflinching commitment towards the values espoused by the constitution of our nation and working towards establishing a society based on them. The need to protect the 'dissenting voices' and to collectively oppose the state policies discouraging dissent in any form featured in the pledge. The preamble of the constitution was also readout. On every Independence Day, we highlight the need to ensure access to basic citizen services and upholding the 'right to life of every individual through nutrition, health, education, shelter and work. Last year we began a dialogue on the need for a robust Public Distribution System to address hunger and lack of access to basic food items for vulnerable sections of the society on Independence Day and highlighted the inadequacies of the present system. This year too, we gave a call to increase the entitlement of ration cardholders and to universalize the Public Distribution System for the nation's working-class should not celebrate another Independence Day on an empty stomach. Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity is committed to joining the progressive forces to ensure an equitable future for each citizen of India and express solidarity to the people's movements across the nation, asserting the rights of the marginalized sections over natural resources and access to constitutional rights.



13 August 2021

Livelihood Report - 2020 to 2021

Introduction 

The sudden collapse of the market due to the pandemic made the unpredictability and instability of the market very evident.  This led the organisation to take steps towards introducing the concept of alternative livelihood and market economy, amongst our members.

Due to the lockdown, the terrible downturn in the economy and the return of migrants, various families faced a substantial loss of income. At the same time, there was scarcity as well as a surge in the price of vegetables. We initiated our plan to help marginal farmers and rural families who own only small homesteads, focusing mainly on the women in such families. We worked with families that have very small plots of land, to start a kitchen garden - which can significantly improve the nutritional content of the families’ food. We have ensured that there are negligible expenses and zero requirements to go to the market for anything produced in the kitchen gardens. Training to make organic fertilisers and pesticides from natural sources, livestock and kitchen waste has also been provided.

We are also successful in involving a large number of  youth in various activities, training and meetings of the organisation. Young men and women were given training to be trainers, thus giving them the confidence to lead a small group of people for the organic kitchen garden initiatives.

Activities

       Training to start organic kitchen gardens

56 young people (50% women) were identified from 8 districts, who with the help of an external resource person were trained to be trainers. This training helped them understand about organic kitchen gardens and their benefits. They learnt how to cultivate and manage a kitchen garden and are expected to further train beneficiaries as well as follow up on their performance on a daily basis. The trainers have trained 15000 beneficiaries, as of June 2021. They have also been taught about seed conservation.


The Organic kitchen garden project focuses on building capacity, especially of women, to set up and nurture their own supply of vegetables through the same. From reclaiming waste land to making organic fertilisers and pesticides, everything has been taught to the trainers in a series of training organised by the organisation.

Key effects or results

  • People are developing an interest towards the concept of kitchen gardens and realising its benefits.
  • The beneficiaries have learnt to make and use organic fertilizers and pesticides. They learnt to utilise waste material (like vegetable peels, eggshells, used tea leaves etc.) which is often discarded.
  • With the production of vegetables, enough to sustain one’s family, there has been a decrease in dependency on the market for the same.
  • People have been able to reclaim wasteland for kitchen gardens.
  •  Some beneficiaries are working jointly on their organic kitchen gardens, in a single plot of land. Extra produce is often distributed amongst relatives and neighbours which has helped strengthen community relations and has led to a further rise in interest in creating kitchen gardens. 

Challenges and our response

  • It has been difficult to convince some people to shift to organic production completely, due to lack of any prior experience (in organic cultivation) of the cultivator. Some people have used both chemical and organic fertilizers and pesticides, which has not generated the desired results.
  • The success of other kitchen gardens in various areas we are working in helped us explain better how completely organic kitchen gardens can produce sufficient yield. The disadvantages of chemical fertilizers and pesticides were also restated.
  • The production has suffered in various areas where the salinity in water as well as soil is high, like areas of North and South 24 Parganas.
  • We have conducted discussions and meetings putting forward the solutions to start and sustain kitchen gardens in areas with high salinity of soil and water. People have been advised to conserve rainwater, given saline resistant seeds and make kitchen gardens in bags and tubs with soil that has low salinity. 
  • Shortage of water in districts like Purulia and Bankura has made people apprehensive about starting these gardens.
  • Techniques that help conserve water as well as utilizing them for the gardens have been taught to all the beneficiaries. Ancient irrigation methods like mulching, clay pot irrigation etc are being taught and promoted.

What we learned and our Future Goals, strategies and activities

       Over the course of the grant period and working on kitchen gardens, we have realised the need to promote requirement specific seeds and grains. Based on consumption patterns of the people, we need to make sure that seeds (like paddy, wheat etc) can be procured and distributed.



       We realize that livestock rearing is another important aspect of being self sufficient and reduce dependence on the market and would like to consider in the future.

       The Training of Trainers (ToT) method, where a trainer is further expected to train 200-300 beneficiaries has been successful for our organization. This was our first time attempting this method and we intend to use it for some of our future projects too.

       This particular project if extended for a longer period of time can help spread the idea of organic kitchen gardens and, accept and shift completely to an organic mode of production. Our intended seed conservation would also take a longer time (i.e more than a year), thus we would like to continue working on this project for a long term. 



 





16 July 2021

PBKMS statement on illegal eviction of forest dwellers and the fascist behaviour of the Khandwa Forest Administration in Madhya Pradesh

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS), condemns the illegal eviction of traditional forest dwellers from their lands inherited through customary rights in direct violation of the provisions of the Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006. The forest department in utter disregard for the legal safeguards enjoyed by the community residing in Jamniya village (Khadwa District, Madhya Pradesh) encroached upon their lands and destroyed their shelters, standing crops and cattle. The Khadwa district administration has also not taken any measures to address the periodic harassment meted out to the forest-dwelling communities by the forest administration despite existing legal provisions acknowledging their customary rights over forest resources.

Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan (JADS), the leading tribal and dalit rights collective intervened and made attempts to protect the interests of the families who were facing the wrath of the forest administration. The District Forest Officer did not acknowledge that the interests of the concerned community are protected by the law of the land till the completion of the verification of their claims over forest lands as per the provisions of the FRA, 2006. The fact that the Madhya Pradesh High Court had passed a stay order in an ongoing petition filed by the members of forest-dwelling communities in Jamniya claiming individual and community forest rights, too was disregarded. The Jabalpur bench of the Madhya Pradesh High Court has also passed an order restraining the state from evicting any individual during the present pandemic situation which was clearly violated as well. Hence in complete defiance of the legal protection accorded to the tribal community, the forest department not only trespassed on their property with criminal intention but also took a twelve year old girl named Puja and her parents along with other members of the community into their custody for protesting against their illegal acts.

The activists of JADS along with the community leaders vehemently protested against the high-handedness of the forest officials and tried to secure the release of the detained persons. Much to the horror of the protestors, the forest officials decided to target the activists of JADS and forcefully took away Nitin bhai, Ramesh bhai and Ratan bhai into their custody. The forest department has no legal right to enforce detentions and has acted in complete violation of the constitutional provisions in detaining the three activists and confining them to the room of the Forest Ranger without any access to legal help. A non-responsive administration finally relented on witnessing a midnight ‘sit-in’ protest led by adivasi women in front of the office of the Superintendent of Police, Khandwa. The 8 people from the community who had been illegally confined in the forest ranger’s office along with Nitin bhai, Ramesh bhai and Mahesh bhai then were released today. The forest administration is yet to hand over the phones of the three activists of JADS and threatened to charge Nitin bhai with false allegations under the Wildlife Act, having non-bailable provisions. Only for standing up to the might of the forest administration in a district of Independent India displaying colonial disdain towards ‘adivasis’ and traditional forest dwellers, a people’s association has to face such systemic harassment. Shame on the Shivraj Singh Chouhan led Madhya Pradesh Government!

45 adivasi families have been looted of their meagre belongings with their homestead lands resembling a battlefield marked by the destruction of standing crops and killing of farm animals. A six year old boy named Mahendra is still missing after the trespassing of the forest department and he has not been traced till the time of circulation of this note.

We demand strict action against the erring officials who have violated even the principles of natural justice with impunity, witnessed in the conduct of only outlawed groups and associations. We also demand a public apology from the office of Hon’ble Minister in charge of Forests, Govt. of Madhya Pradesh and adequate compensation to the families whose shelters, standing crops and cattle have been destroyed. The district administration should assure the community of protection against harassment and illegal trespass of forest officials on their lands and immediate compliance with the provisions of the FRA, 2006.

PBKMS stands in complete solidarity with the activists of JADS and the community of forest dwellers who have displayed tremendous courage and determination to challenge the hegemonic grip of the district forest administration over natural resources. We completely endorse the following demands put forward by JADS and urge upon the state government of Madhya Pradesh to assure us of immediate action:

    • All charges against adivasis and activists must be dropped.
    • Police must immediately trace the missing child and hand him over to his parents. 
    • Confiscated phones of all persons must be immediately returned. 
    • The 45 families who have faced immense loss of food grain, crop and livestock must be fully and immediately compensated by Madhya Pradesh Govt

25 June 2021

54 Thousand Workers From Duncans Gardens File Claims for 1538 Crores Dues With NCLT

 

With Duncans Industries Limited going into bankruptcy, the future of the workers of 17 gardens owned by Duncans is now in doldrums. Workers have been worried about their dues and whether they will ever receive their due wages, fringe benefits, gratuity and provident fund.

Responding to the workers’ concern, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) has supported workers 54250 workers to file a claim of Rs.1538,76,90,240 from nine Duncans Industries Limited gardens in Alipurduar and Jalpaiguri. The claim includes arrear wages, over-time, extra leaf payment, rations, fuel wood, gratuity and provident fund.

While Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) has already filed a case in Supreme Court for the dues of 29 gardens including 7 former Duncans gardens,on making enquiries,  we found that the Duncans Industries Limited has gone into bankruptcy. The Corporate Insolvency Resolution Process was started against them on 05th March, 2020 in the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT). By this process, all creditors of the company are to file their claims and the NCLT will approve a plan by which the amounts owed to them will be paid back, either by liquidating Duncans’ assets or by finding a new owner.

PBKMS took the matter on urgent basis and made the workers aware of the Resolution Process against the Duncans Industries Limited. One PBKMS member then filed a claim with the Resolution Professional (RP) appointed by the NCLT on behalf of 124 workers in April 2021. The RP rejected the claims stating that the workers are late in filing their claims. The workers then approached the NCLT Kolkata bench, who accepted their plea and directed the RP to accept the claims. On 15th June 2021, the Court has directed the workers to submit their claims with appropriate documents to the Resolution Professional by 30th June 2021. Now claims have been submitted for 54, 250 workers on the basis of list of workers provided to PBKMS by the Provident Fund Commissioner’s office at Jalpaiguri.

The gardens for which claims have been filed are Lankapara, Gairganda, Hantapara, Dumchipara, Tulsipara and Birpara in Alipur Duar District. In Jalpaiguri, claims have been filed for Nageswari, Killcote and Bagracote.

21 June 2021

Relief work in South and North 24 Parganas after Cyclone Yaas

May 26, 2021, saw another addition to the list of violent cyclones in the Sundarbans. The entire Sundarbans, including the coastal areas of East Midnapore, South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas, was again devastated by the landfall on the Orissa coast. While the exact amount of damage can never be known; agriculture, fish farming, animal husbandry, trade and commerce have all been affected. Around 10 lakh people had to be brought to safe shelters. 

According to various sources, the impact of cyclone Yaas in various areas and villages in South 24 Parganas and North 24 Parganas districts caused dangerous damage to the property, as seawater had dangerously swelled and dams in various places collapsed. Various villages were completely inundated by the floods. Mud houses of many people in the village were destroyed by the storm or by the tidal wave, forcing villagers to take shelter in the flood centres. As the tide rose, the river overflowed in different villages and whole villages were submerged. For a while, there was nothing left to help the helpless people. Crops grown in the field got flooded with saltwater, leaving them very worried about their immediate future.

After the landfall, PBKMS rushed to provide relief and assist speedy rehabilitation, in the Sundarbans.  We provided 10Kg Bleaching and 60Kg Lime powder each, in villages of Nandakumarpur, Kumropara, Kankandighi, Namkhana, Narainpur anchals of South 24 Parganas (as of 14th June 2021) to clean the water sources and to purify drinking water. More than 70 quintals of Lime powder and 10 quintals of Bleaching powder has been provided to villages committees of different blocks of South 24 Parganas like Gosaba, Patharpratima, Kulpi and Kakdwip, to be spread in the next few days


Similarly, in Hasnabad, Minakhan, Kholapota, Sandeshkhali blocks of ​​North 24 Parganas, PBKMS has extended a helping hand to the people affected by the cyclone. 250 Kg Bleaching powder and 1400Kg Lime powder has been provided in 25 villages of the district.


District

Block

GP

Village

Lime (kg)

Bleaching (kg)

South 24 Parganas

Kultali


Kundakhali

200

50

Kultali


Bhubeneswari

1550

1050

Kultali


Moipith

Kultali


Deoulbari Devipur

Mathurapur 2

Nandakumarpur


600

100

Mathurapur 2

Kumropara


300

50

Mathurapur 2

Kankandighi


400

50

North 24 Parganas

Hasnabad

Amlani

Sundoria



Murarisha

Gara Kupi



Kholapota

Rajendrapur

Noldi



Sandeshkhali

Bayarmari

Bayarmari



Chuchra Bayarmari



Minakha

Chaital

Majherpara

200

25

Neruli

Neruli Abad

Nimichi

Uttar Akratola

Uttar Majherpara

Fulbari

Mohanpur

Paschimand Purbo Chandibari

400

50

Harinhula

Barabari

Kalibari

Dakkhin Kalibari

Tangramari

Ramjoygheri

Muchikhola

Ramjaigheri

Mallik gheri

Aathpukur

Beltola

Sukni Basa

Harinhola

Mohanpur

Natun Para

Uchildaha

200

50

Chapali Abad

Fulbari

200

25

Balaberia

Uchhemari

Chapali Abad


Community kitchens have been started in 17 villages where cooked meals have been provided (as of 1 July, 2021) to around 10,000 people, which includes people involved in river embankment repairing and their families. Meals are being cooked and served on different islands as well. 

Community kitchens have been started in 17 villages where cooked meals have been provided (as of 1 July, 2021) to around 10,000 people, which includes people involved in river embankment repairing and their families. Meals are being cooked and served on different islands as well. 


S. NO.

BLOCK

GP

VILLAGE

NO. OF PEOPLE FED (1st Day)

(2nd Day)

(3rd Day)

1

Kultali

Bhubaneshwari

Amtalar Kheya

200

200


2

Majher Kheya

200

200


3

Bhubaneshwari

200

200

200

4

Petkulchand

200

200


5

Haldar gheri

200

200


6

Bhasha

200

200


7

Uttar Devipur

200

200


8

Paschim Devipur

200

200


9

Deulbari Devipur

Shyam Nagar

200

200


10

Durgapur

200

200


11

Patharpratima

Achintanagar

Biratbajar Srigheri

200

200


12

Bishnupur

200

200


13

Brajaballabhpur

Brajaballabhpur

200

200


14

Mathurapur 2

Kankandighi

Daktar gheri

200

200


15

Shitalmaity

200

200


16

Dokkhin Kankandighi

250

250


17

Nagendrapur

Addi Baradanagar

200

200


18

Amtalar Kheya

200

200


19

Nandakumarpur

Chatua

200

200


20

Namkhana

Narayanpur

Narayanpur

200

200


21

Baidya gheri

100

200


22

Kultali

Moipeeth

Nagenabad

200

200


23

Baikanthapur

200

200


TOTAL

4550

4650

200


Our members, in various blocks of South 24 Parganas, have also coordinated and assisted individuals and other organisations like Udayani, Nabarun Sangha (a local club in Badu) and Sramajivi hospital in providing dry ration and food packets. 

S.No

Organisation Name/Partner Name

Particulars

No. of people/Quantity

Block

1

Nabarun Sangha (Badu)

Meal

750

Gosaba

2

Sramajivi hospital

Medikit

250

Namkhana

3

Arup Chatterjee (Kolkata)

Rice

7.5 quintal

Mathurapur 2

4

Father Jyoti (Dhyan Ashram)

Dry ration

400

Mathurapur 2

5

Father Shaju

Dry ration

950

Kultali

6

Udayani

Dry ration

185

Kultali


We had also made collections and distributed lungis, sarees, towels and other necessary items along with food packets in Kakdwip block.

Birla Cement Factory has provided 8,000 cement bags to PBKMS to use for embankment reconstruction. The bags will be utilized in Gosaba, Kulpi, Mathurapur 2, Kultali and Patharpratima for embankment reconstruction under the MGNREGA scheme.

We have sourced 2600 Kg Saline resistant paddy seeds for distribution in 5 blocks of South 24 Parganas (Mathurapur 1, Namkhana, Gosaba, Kultali, Patharpratima) and 5 blocks of North 24 Parganas (Hasnabad, Minakhan, Sandeshkhali 2, Basirhat 2, Nazet).

Bolpur Manav Zamin has provided us with 2000 kitchen garden seeds to be distributed to 2000 families in different blocks of North and South 24 Parganas who were trained by us to maintain organic kitchen gardens in their backyards, which were ruined by excessive rains, flood or the cyclone.