Valentines Day brought hope for the youth of Kolkata. Chief Minister Ms Mamata Banerjee said, "I'm with you," to a group of us, who visited her residence to gift her a canvas painted by youth of West Bengal. The canvas contained messages saying no to genetically modified (GM) food and the proposed Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India [BRAI] from 3 different colleges. We were trying to get the CM's attention on the GM crop threat to our food, farming and environment and the need for her to act to safeguard us from such risky technologies like GM crops and laws like BRAI.
On 13th February, 2012 Greenpeace activists went to different colleges like the Ashutosh college, Vidyasagar School of Social work and the Jadhavpur University in Kolkata with a canvas and paint to get the youth of Kolkata to express their view on GM food and BRAI bill. What we got at the end of the day were four illustrated canvases with lots of messages urging our CM, who people of Bengal affectionately call 'Didi', to act.
We converted all those into one and took it to the CM's residence on Valentines day. At about 7:30 in the morning 10 of us assembled near her residence. After waiting for two hours we finally got the green signal from the cops. Now we were in her courtyard with messages from 100s of young people.
After an hour and half, Ms. Mamata Banerjee came out of her home to go to the office. We lifted the canvas to make it visible and I shouted, "Didi, we are youth of West Bengal and we are here to request you to oppose BRAI Bill and ensure our food security."
Ms Mamata Banerjee came forward and started reading messages, nodding her head in agreement. At this point my fellow volunteer, Utsarjana requested her to sign the canvas to express her solidarity with the issue. She was coming towards us, when someone from the crowd jumped forward with his grievance. This made her retreat and move towards her car.
Amaan from our group at this point asked her loudly, "Didi today is Valentine's Day, we love you, are you with us?" She turned back and made the magical statement, "I am with you" and directed her staff to collect the canvas and our petition and treat us with tea and snacks before we go.
We gave our letter and copies of the Legal assessment of BRAI that Greenpeace had recently released to the CM's staff, who promised to brief her on the matter and get back to us.
What we saw today proved to us that if people stand up for their rights our policymakers cannot ignore us for long. It was also a happy realisation that the youth of our country can make a difference.
Ms Mamata Banerjee has acknowledged the growing opposition to GM crops and BRAI in our state. But we also promised ourselves that we will not rest till the time we get the central government to scrap such an undemocratic law and for that our CM needs to write to them. That's what we will keep reminding her about.