Bangladesh Krishak League, the ruling Awami League’s affiliated body for farmers, is set to hold its national council on Nov 6 with its central leadership dominated by people from other professions.
Most of them have no direct relationship with farming, other than consuming farm products.
One of the central leaders, Mohammad Shafiqul Alam Firoz, recently made headlines after being arrested on charges of running an illegal casino at Kalabagan Krira Chakra, of which he is the president.
As many of the central leaders have nothing to do with agriculture, it has created a gap between the farmers and the organisation.
Amid discussions over the condition of the organisation ahead of its council, its Vice-President Badiuzzaman Bablu acknowledged its weaknesses ahead of the council in Dhaka.
Speaking to bdnews24.com, he came down heavily on the present leadership.
The leaders are forming unit committees in exchange for money while the organisation has no significant activities, he alleged.
“And leaders are involved in the casino scam,” Bablu said.
Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader has also questioned Krishak League’s activities for forming committees in the Dhaka city, which does not have any farmland.
Leaders of other organisations of farmers also expressed frustration over the condition of Krishak League.
Krishak League has farmers only in its name, but not in deeds, they say.
Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman formed the organisation with the slogan – “Save the farmers, save the country”.Its basic principle is to make overall development of the farmers and others by organising the farmers across the country imbued with Bengali nationalism, democracy and secularism.
The goal of the organisation is to take timely and realistic measures for the welfare of the farmers with dedication, sincerity and honesty.
But no such thing is visible in the organisation now. Last year, when farmers all over the country protested against unfair paddy prices, Krishak League took no programmes.
MA Sabur, president of Bangladesh Krishak Samity, a leftist organisation of farmers, said: “The farmers’ society was the source of all the movements starting from the anti-British movement in this country. Following these, Bangabandhu formed Krishak League to protect the rights of the farmers.”
“But today, Krishak League has no headache about saving farm land and protecting farmers’ interests. It has no headache even if farmers do not get fair rice price. In a word, the cow is in the book only, but not in the farmhouse,” he told bdnews24.com.
Referring to several programmes taken by Krishak Samity to protect farmers’ interest in the wake of falling rice prices last year, Sabur said, “But we’ve not seen any initiative of the pro-government Krishak League.”
In sharp contrast, Krishak League General Secretary Shamsul Haque Reza claimed, “We were always fighting to establish the rights of the farmers. We are still doing it.”
Regarding the lack of programmes, Reza said, “We’re not in the field because the party is in power, but we always inform all the demands of the farmers to the prime minister, the finance minister and the agriculture minister. As a result, farmers are now getting all kinds of benefits.”
About the farmers’ dissatisfaction with paddy prices last year, he said, “At that time, we spoke to the prime minister and the agriculture minister about the farmers and steps were taken accordingly.”
“We need not to go to the field on all the matters, because we’re an associate body of the ruling party. We can resolve it by speaking to the prime minister,” he added.
During the tenure of the current committee led by Motahar Hossain Mollah, the Krishak League has been organising only events marking special days.
The present committee was formed on July 19, 2012 in its last council. Its term was supposed to end after three more years, but the Molla-led committee has been in place for eight years.
As the government is conducting a crackdown on illegal gambling, corruption, contract-grabbing, extortion and other wrongdoings, especially by members of the ruling party and its affiliates, the Krishak League activists are hoping for new leadership that will work for the farmers.
One of them, requesting anonymity, alleged the central committee is dominated by around 35 members who are actually lawyers.
These lawyers include Reza.
“We’re leading the organisation as per the direction of the leader (Sheikh Hasina). I’ll perform my duty if I am given the leadership again,” Reza said.
The names of vice-presidents Omar Faruk, Sharif Ashraf Hossain, Badiuzzaman Badsha and Sheikh Md Jahangir Alam are in discussions as possible candidates for the president’s post in the next committee.
For the post of general secretary, incumbent Joint General Secretary Sameer Chandra, organising secretaries Biswanath Sarkar Bitu, Sakhawat Hossain Sweet, Asaduzzaman Biplob, Abul Hossain and Gazi Jasim Uddin are in line.
It is still unclear whether the new leadership will be elected by the voting of councillors who will come from across the country. Awami League President and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina herself may decide on selecting new leaders, according to Krishak League’s leaders.
As many as 10,000 councillors will come to Dhaka to join the council in line with the organisation’s constitution and the number of representatives could not be specified yet, according to Reza.