People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
July 11, 2004
Kisan Sabha Raises Vital Demands Before PM
ON June 28, a delegation of the All India Kisan Sabha met the prime minister who had called a meeting of leaders of the farmers’ associations. The AIKS had already submitted a detailed representation to the prime minister on the problems facing the peasantry. Some of the concrete proposals, to be considered immediately, were reiterated at the said meeting.
Land Reforms: Landless families should be endowed with land through implementation of land reform laws. Reversal of land reform laws should not be permitted.
Credit & Interest Rate: Though rural India supports more than 709 million people, the credit flow to agriculture is only 11.1 per cent of the total credit disbursed. The credit system is skewed. The interest rate for agriculture is also high. For instance, one gets credit at 7 per cent interest to buy a Maruti car but for a tractor the rates are from 12 to 16 per cent.
The later announcements of the government of India of a hike in credit to agriculture and about widening the Kisan Credit Card systems and restructuring of loans are welcome steps. But this is only the ‘first aid’ while the need is hospitalisation. In this situation, the Kisan Sabha demanded the following:
The institutional rural credit should be doubled within two years and the coverage of small and marginal peasants should be expanded substantially.
Interest rates on institutional loans as well as private loans must be regulated, with an effective law to put a ceiling on the interest rates to be charged by the non-institutional sector.
Waiver of loans owed by farmers who are affected by continuous national calamities and pests, especially to small and marginal farmers who constitute 70 per cent of the farming community.
The rural cooperative credit system should be strengthened.
While agriculture accounts for 24 per cent of the GDP, investment in agriculture is only 1.3 per cent of the GDP. Investment should be increased to at least 6 per cent of the GDP immediately. Because of the reduction in investment, growth rate in the agriculture sector has come down from 3.5 per cent in 1980-90 to 1 per cent in 1997-2001.
The government should step up in a significant manner public investment in agricultural research, and in extension of rural infrastructure, irrigation and power.
Rural Employment: There is an urgent need for rapidly increasing rural employment. The National Employment Guarantee Act, promised in the Common Minimum Programme of the United Progressive Alliance, should be passed as early as possible. The act should provide a legal guarantee for at least 100 days of employment, to begin with, for asset-creating public works programmes every year at minimum wages for at least one able-bodied person in every rural, urban poor and lower middle class household. In the interim, a massive food for work programme should be started. Self-help groups and self-employment programmes should be encouraged.
Irrigation Network: Nearly 70 per cent of cultivable land --- 100 million hectares out of 142 million hectares --- continues to be vulnerable to the irregularities of monsoon. Yet more than 400 irrigation projects, which could have irrigated 21 million hectares, are pending since the 1960s. All ongoing irrigation projects should be completed on a time bound basis.
Crop & Livestock Insurance: Crop and livestock insurance schemes should be made more effective. The National Agricultural Insurance Scheme should be properly revised to cover the failure of crops of individual farms and to cover large sections of the peasantry.
Prices of Produce: The present APMC system denies value to farmers. Over 60 per cent of the price paid by consumers goes to the traders. Quantitative restrictions, which have led to depression of domestic prices of farm products due to artificial lowering of international prices, have to be removed.
In this situation, the need of the hour is that
Quantitative restrictions should be imposed on crops that are getting domestic subsidy support in foreign countries, and
The government has to ensure that private as well as public procurement is governed and regulated by minimum support prices, which guarantees the peasants the cost of production plus reasonable profit.
Storage & Processing: Only 2 per cent of the agriculture produce is processed today. Storage capacity of the foodgrain production is also almost one third of the need. So immediate steps to improve storage and processing arrangement are needed.
Indigenous Research: There has to be stress on indigenous research and other facilities to improve the quality of seeds, yielding capacity etc. The unrestricted entry of multinational companies in this vital sector should be stopped and steps should be taken to protect our seed sovereignty.
Agricultural Workers: A comprehensive legislation that provide minimum wages and social security measures to the agricultural workers should be implemented. The government wasteland must be distributed among agricultural workers and they must be financially helped to take up agricultural operations on these lands.