01 May 2022

PBKMS and SMS commemorate International Workers' Day

We renewed our pledges on May Day to extend our complete solidarity with the global struggle of the working class

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) and Sharamajivee Mahila Samity (SMS) marked 1st May, 2022 with rallies, marches, hoisting of our flag, enthusiastic sloganeering and exchange of revolutionary greetings. Field areas across 14 districts of West Bengal commemorated the historic day which witnessed enthusiastic participation from our members. Anchal, block and district committees mobilized members and our sympathizers for the events marking the day. A note on the history of the struggle of the working class and the relevance of the day in today's socio-political environment was circulated and read out in our street corner gatherings.

Comrades at our local centre in Kulpi, South 24 Parganas

Comrades in a show of strength after a short march in Minakhan, North 24 Parganas
Comrades observing a minute of silence in memory of the martyrs of working-class movements across the globe in Datan, West Midnapore 

Flag hoisting at Raidighi, South 24 Parganas

Comrades preparing for a march in Chhatna, Bankura

A discussion session on contemporary labour issues organized by the district committee in North Dinajpur 

Comrades hoisting the flag at an NREGA work site in Manbazar, Purulia

Comrades marching in Hura, Purulia

Plantation workers of Paschim Banga Cha Mazdoor Samity preparing for hoisting the flag of the union in Gangutia tea garden, Jalpaiguri

28 March 2022

PBKMS and SMS take to the streets to enforce the two day ‘Bharat Bandh’

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. In addition to the demand for unconditional rollback of the three farm laws, the farming community had also placed certain demands before the central government before agreeing to call off the protests. The central government has not only been non-responsive but has also been insensitive to the point of obscenity when it went silent on even asking for the resignation of parliamentarian and minister of state Ajay Mishra Teni, who has been accused of targeted killings of protesting farmers in Lakhimpur Kheri in Uttar Pradesh.

We are observing the 'two-day' nationwide strike called by central trade unions and farmer organizations to highlight the anti-working class policies of the central government and their reluctance to address the concerns of the farming community.

  PBKMS activists marching towards the SDPO office on Monday in Basirhat sub-division, North 24 Parganas

PBKMS activists blocking one of the main thoroughfares in Hura block, Purulia

A joint demonstration in Hasnabad block, North 24 Parganas


Members marching in a rally in Raidighi, South 24 Parganas

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.

25 March 2022

Submission of Deputation at Kultali, South 24 Parganas

PBKMS highlights persisting local issues in a deputation handed over to the Kultali BDO

On 24th March, 2022 members of PBKMS (Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity) led by senior activist Com. Kanai Halder met Shri Birendra Nath Adhikari, the BDO (Block Development Officer) of Kultali block in the district of South 24 Parganas. The block unit highlighted numerous concerns through the submission of a deputation which led to an intense discussion with the BDO to seek long term solutions.

Members of PBKMS after meeting the Kultali BDO
Issues experienced in the implementation of legislation(s) and welfare scheme(s) like Public Distribution System, MGNREGA, Mid Day Meal, Mission Nirmal Bangla, Social Assistance Programmes, PM Awas Yojana, etc. were presented in detail. Inadequacies in public health infrastructure were also taken up for discussion.  

The BDO and other officials assured us that some of our long-standing demands like the provision of new job cards for family members who have started living separately, sanctioning more tube wells in the densely populated areas, easy and quick disbursal of social assistance pensions and immediate strengthening of embankments in low lying areas will be looked into. The officials have also requested us to assist them in conducting a camp for enabling differently-abled persons to submit the documents required to access social assistance benefits. Repair and strengthening of vulnerable embankments have been promised to be taken up shortly by the block administration. Future plans of the administration to reach households with piped drinking water have also been shared.   

We have conveyed our experience in successfully implementing a kitchen harden programme in the district and have expressed our willingness to help the block administration in developing kitchen or nutrition gardens in community spaces. The BDO has sought our assistance in ensuring that mangrove habitats are protected and to help the administration in curbing child marriages in the block. Regular disbursement of entitlements guaranteed under the Mid Day Meal programme has also been assured. 

02 February 2022

Observance of 16th NREGA Diwas

PBKMS and SMS observe the 16th NREGA Diwas across West Bengal  

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) and Shramajivee Mahila Samity (SMS) marked the 16th anniversary of the implementation of the public works programme which came into force on 2nd February 2006. The day reminds us of the long struggle undertaken by the working class to successfully demand a guarantee from the state in accessing wage-based employment. Despite having clear provisions in the Directive Principles of State Policy and forming an important component of the 'right to life with dignity' guaranteed by the constitution, it took more than 50 long years for the political leadership to recognize the same. Though all the demands we raised during our decade long non-violent struggle to uphold the 'right to work' are yet to be met, the day is still marked with reverence by people's organizations for successfully convincing the then union government to roll out a public works programme. The global pandemic and the vulnerabilities of the migrant population in the urban spaces have highlighted the importance of this programme which has been a lifesaver for the rural communities.                                    

We are also witnessing an unenthusiastic implementation of the programme, which is unarguably one of the most impactful rights-based legislation(s) in post-Independent India. Job cardholders are being denied work, wages are getting inordinately delayed, corrupt practices creeping in without access to proper grievance redressal mechanisms, etc. The union budget of 2022-23 has also been disappointing with respect to the allocation for the public works programme, with the budgetary provisions failing to respond to the demand for work generated by rural households.      

On this day, we met the officials of the panchayat, block and district administrations across West Bengal and submitted a demand charter listing out our immediate concerns on the implementation of the programme. 
          One of our activists with the receipted copy of the demand charter after submitting it to the office of the Block Development Officer in Shantipur, Nadia

The following demands have been placed before the Central and State Governments:
1. 200 days of guaranteed wage employment for each and every individual in the rural areas.
2. Fixation of minimum daily wage at ₹600 in line with the recommendations of the 7th pay commission.

3. Disbursal of wages should be according to the laid down provisions of the law, which guarantees payment of wages within a fortnight of the completion of work.

4. No worker should not be paid less than the stipulated wages under any pretext.

5. Unemployment benefits should be disbursed in the manner stated in the law on not being provided work within a fortnight of submitting work demand applications.

6. In accordance with the provisions of the law, drinking water, shed and creche facility for children accompanying their mothers to the work sites should be made available.
7. Alternatives to earthwork should be made available, especially for women.

8. Every eligible applicant should be provided with a job card and no job card should be cancelled arbitrarily.

9. Appropriate measures should be taken to prevent sexual harassment of women at work sites.         

Deputations and demand charters have been submitted across 12 districts in West Bengal with the senior activists taking a lead role in engaging with the bureaucracy and the political leadership. 

31 January 2022

PBKMS and SMS observe 'Betrayal Day' on the call given by farmers

PBKMS and SMS submit deputations and initiate a campaign to highlight the 'betrayal' faced by the farmers of the nation in the hands of the union government   

Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS) and Shramajivee Mahila Samity (SMS) have called for a 'Day of Condemnation' or the 'Betrayal day' as christened by the associations and trade union under the banner of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSSC). The union government and the political leadership at the centre have failed to honour its promises to the farmers during the withdrawal of the year-long protests. Post rollback of the three contentious farm legislations by the union government, the protesting farmers demanded concrete steps to address their other concerns as well for which they had braved the ire of the administration and the extreme climate of North India for more than a year.

We welcome the unconditional withdrawal of the three contentious farm legislations which began with the passing of the Farm Laws Repeal Bill, 2021 at the Lok Sabha culminating in the presidential assent provided on 1st December, 2021. However, the other demands of the nation wide peaceful struggle were not honoured by the political leadership at the centre and the farming community now nurses a sense of betrayal. Not even one of the promises made to the protesting farmers (apart from the repeal of the three farm legislations) to persuade them to vacate the protest sites has been taken up till date. This apathy dishonours one of the most impactful peasant movements of the recent times. We have not seen any willingness on the part of the central government to honour its commitment on a range of promises made to address concerns of the protetsing farmers. An elected government cannot disregard the demands raised by a mass movement in this manner. We vow to continue with our struggles till each and every demand of our farmers is honoured. 

In West Bengal, especially the small and marginal farmers face difficulty in receiving the right price for their produces. There are also numerous barriers to selling paddy in large quantities, such as relatively distant markets, undefined pricing, the complexity of selling in government mandis, and so on. The present Trinamool Congress government had given moral support to the agitating peasants and now if the other vital demands of the peasants are not met, then some moral responsibility to address them lies with the political leadership of the state as well.

Senior activists of PBKMS addressing a press conference in Uttar Dinajpur

On this day, we are submitting demand charters in the form of deputations to the panchayat, block and district administrations in our field areas which are spread across West Bengal. We are placing the following demands before the State Government:

1. Declaration of minimum support price for all agricultural produces.

2. Providing access to necessary infrastructure for enabling farmers to sell agricultural products in the government mandis.

3. Speedy settlemt of arrears after the sale of paddy in government mandis.

4. In case of crop damage due to natural calamities, adequate compensation should be provided. Universal coverage of crop insurance should be ensured.

5. In order to reduce the monopoly of multinational seed corporations, necessary infrastructure should be provided for the conservation of indigenous seeds at the village level.

The following demands have been placed before the Central Government along with all the mass organizations and farmer's associations across the country:

1. Immediate announcement of the formation of committee with the objective of guaranteeing the minimum support price of all crops.

2. Fixing the minimum wage of agricultural labourers at ₹600 per day in line with the recommendations of the 7th pay commission.

3. Fabricated charges imposed on protesting farmers must be withdrawn immediately.

4. Union Minister Ajay Mishra Teni, who was responsible for the gruesome murder of farmers in Lakhimpur Khedi, should be arrested and punished through the appropriate judicial process.

We have also been able to organize a few roadshows and public meetings in the face of strict pandemic related restrictions. Our members have made efforts to adhere to the protocol(s) related to public health as laid down by the authorities. Some of the glimpses of our show of strength on the ground: 

A rally in progress at Minakhan, North 24 Parganas

Com. Anuradha Talwar, member of State Committee addressing a gathering in North Dinajpur

Com. Suchitra Halder, member of State Committee leading a rally in Minakhan, North 24 Parganas

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 our senior activist and treasurer, 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.   

Com. Kanai Halder interacting with the residents
14 villages will be severely affected post commencement of the coal mining project. We came to know of a protest march, in which the community members displayed brooms, symbolizing their desire of chasing away the 'dikus' (outsiders) who are eyeing the natural resources of the area. The march was held by the residents of the Dewanganj village and the police administration immediately cracked down on them with the temporary detention of a local community mobilizer.     

The population density of the area is less with the number of households in a village seldom crossing twenty-five. This is mainly due to the topography of the area, marked by jungles and hillocks. The implementation of rights-based legislation(s) in the area is poor, to say the least. Villagers do not have access to the public works programme, which guarantees a minimum of 100 days of paid work to each and every rural household in the country. Many households have stopped receiving their entitled food grains through the Public Distribution System. Anganwadi centres are not functioning properly and other schemes like mission Nirmal Bangla, Bangla Awas Yojana, etc are also not being implemented in their true spirits. Without paying a hefty kickback, the central schemes are also not made accessible to the people.      

A certain fear has crept into the minds of the villagers in accessing benefits of state-sponsored schemes for they feel that on the pretext of filling up of forms, the administration will manipulate them to part with their homestead and agricultural land(s). For similar reasons, we have been prevented from taking photographs or even writing field notes in some areas. The suspicion on the administration has grown to such an extent!            

The electricity connection is not too stable and often villages go without electricity for a long period of time. The villages of Gabarbathan and Sagarbandi are yet to receive electricity connections. Some of the villages have electric poles but the households have not been reached with proper connections. Notable amongst them are Harisingh, Talbandh, Khetpahari and Baromesya. 

The residents of the region mainly communicate in Alchiki, Oraon and Santali languages. We have worked in Birbhum briefly from 1994-96 and Com. Akal Mandi from this region was even an active member of our then state committee. In the anchals of Dewanganj and Hinglo, we met people who are not in favour of the coal mine being commissioned but have also come across a section of the community who feel that the mine project will benefit them economically. Though, the people do not trust the committee formed by the administration to do full justice to their legitimate claims. 

A significant number of the residents are not keen to give up their homestead and agricultural lands for the sake of a coal mine. The landless population are in favour of evaluating the full compensation package before taking a final decision. Representatives of mainstream political parties often visit the villages which have been proposed to be included in the coal mine project with the objective of mobilizing people to further the aspirations of the concerned political party. The people have experienced that such interactions do not benefit them in any manner and expose them to harassment meted out by the administration who are always on their toes to snuff out any opposition to their unilateral decisions. People from the anchals of Dewanganj and Sagarbandi are leading the protests against the administration which attempts to complete the land acquisition soon. The cadres of the ruling political party in the state are also not being allowed in these areas. Community mobilizers are planning to hold a meeting with the heads of the fourteen villages to chalk out a joint resistance strategy, involving democratic means of protests.   

PBKMS will also plan the nature of its intervention in association with the affected communities. Birbhum and particularly the villages which are falling under the area of the proposed coal mine happened to be our field area in the mid-90s. We plan to strengthen our organization over there along with active participation in the movement to ensure the ownership of the tribal community over jal, jangal and jamin. The administration has virtually halted all the projects pertaining to the development of social infrastructure with the hope of tiring out the communities in accessing public goods as well as basic necessities.       

All the conversations took place in the Alchiki language and we are thankful to our sathi Com. Somnath Baske, for helping us in having multiple conversations with the native speakers. The report has been prepared after translating the main subjects of the conversations into Bengali and noting them down during our return journey to Kolkata. 

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.