People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 10, 2005



Kisan Movement: Opportunities Galore

  K Varadarajan


“No one we trust, desire to witness the continuation of a system, under which people are born in debt, live in debt and die in debt, passing the burden to those who follow”


This famous quotation was used by the Royal Commission of Agriculture to explain the then situation of the peasantry in colonial India. After 57 years of independence, the situation is the same, and it begs the question: why is it so?


The ruling classes of India have not addressed the problems of agriculture and the peasantry all these years. This has a led to a peculiar situation wherein the food production has increased by more then three times, between 1950 and 2000, even as the poverty among the peasantry kept increasing. After the completion of nine Five Year Plans, the policies of the ruling classes has led to further disparity between the rich and the poor in rural India. This was because the central government took care of only the landlords and rich peasants and did not care to address the problems of poor peasants, middle peasants and the agricultural workers – who together constitute almost 9 per cent of the rural population.


The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), which played a leading role in the independence struggle by rallying the rural masses, has been demanding a complete change in the policy of ruling classes to address this agrarian crisis. Radical land reforms, improving the purchasing power of the rural poor to strengthen the Indian market and increased investment in agricultural sector etc. were the demands of the Kisan Sabha.


But the ruling classes, in the name of addressing the agrarian crisis, adopted such policies which further worsened the situation. The recent period of globalisation has amply proved this. The remedy suggested by these pandits of globalisation is worse than the disease itself.


While most sections of the people were victims of the globalisation policies, no section suffered as much as the people in the fields and farms who are involved in the noble task of feeding the country. There have been thousands of suicides of the peasants all over the country. Selling of kidneys to pay back loans, large scale  migration of kisans from the villages to cities and adjacent states  in search of work, and innumerable starvation deaths in every nook and corner of the country in the last decade are a testimony to the kind of suffering unleashed on the Indian peasantry by these globalisation policies.


The adverse effect of liberalisation policies, intensified by the Congress government in 1991 and much more vigorously implemented during the BJP rule between 1998 and 2004 – and still being followed by UPA government – can be seen if we look at some aspects of the severe crisis facing the agricultural sector. In the last few years, it is estimated that the farmers of the country are loosing Rs 1,16,000 crore a year due to the crash in the prices of agricultural produce. The rate of growth in food production in India is coming down by the day and today it is lower than the rate of growth of population. The agricultural workers, who are the worst affected lot, are getting less than 60 days of work per year.


This serious situation has led to various agitations and struggle all over India and keeping up to its tradition, the All India Kisan Sabha played a major role in organising these struggles all over India.




In the recent period, many state governments have amended the land ceiling provisions and have reversed whatever little positive features they had in their earlier Acts. This was done to enable the big business and multinational companies to purchase vast tracts of land. Many state governments have already started giving wasteland to private companies including the multinational variety.


The Tamil Nadu government’s new scheme, titled, “Wasteland Development Scheme” is a best example to show where the country is headed. Under the scheme, the Jayalalitha government is handing over more than 50 lakh acres of government land to multinational companies and private firms. A private firm can take more than 1000 acres of land on lease for 30 years. This scheme is actually an effort to evict the poor people from their land, as most of these lands were already under occupation of poor people but without any pattas. Many other states have already announced similar schemes.


Tribal people are the worst affected by the misrule of central and state governments. The union ministry of environment and forestry has issued a circular in May 2002 through which state governments have been ordered to evict all the tribals and non-tribals from their lands, terming them as encroachers.




The BJP-led central government removed the quantitative restrictions on import of several agricultural commodities much before requirement under WTO. India thus opened its market and made the farming community vulnerable to highly subsidised import products. And the effect has been telling. Cheap imports of skimmed milk powder, edible oils, sugar, tea, arecanut, apples, coconut, silk cotton etc have flooded the Indian market. The US imperialists and other developed countries have raised their subsidies for agricultural products under various heads and kept the world market prices low in order to enable the MNC’s to flood the markets of developing countries like India with their products. Opening up the Indian market to MNC’s is the main reason behind the unprecedented crash in prices which has led to thousands of farmers to take the extreme measure of committing suicide.




Because of the privatisation policies of the previous NDA government and the present UPA government, the fertiliser industry is facing a severe crisis. The public sector units which produce one-thirds of the fertiliser needs of the country, are today shrinking.


Reduced government intervention and reduction of subsidies have already led to a steep rise in prices of fertiliser and pesticides.


The period has also seen privatisation of electricity in many states, which has led to the steep increase in electricity charges. The deregulation of the diary sector is another onslaught on poor farmers. Multinational diary farms, which were eyeing the vast Indian market for a long time have already entered this field and begun ruining the dairy co-operatives.


Privatisation and commercialisation of water resources is the latest attack on Indian agriculture. Already Chhattisgarh state government has privatised water supply from the Sheonath river. Many state governments, like Kerala, Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh have approached the World Bank and MNCs for privatisation of water.


With the slogan ‘market is supreme and will decide every thing’, the central government is drastically reducing investment in agriculture, which has already led to a steep increase in the cost of agricultural inputs.




Social oppression of dalit and tribal people is one of the main issues facing the peasants’ movement in India. These people who constitute 21 per cent of the population face both class and caste oppression. It must be noted nearly 86.5 per cent of dalits are landless and 49 per cent of them living in villages are agricultural workers.


The caste issue is used by landlords and upper sections to disrupt the class unity that is very much needed for fighting against the ruinous policies of the governments. The degrading caste practices, social oppression of women, evil of dowry system, bride burning and all forms of pernicious social religions custom are the challenges the peasant movement is facing today besides the economic oppression of the poor peasants and agricultural workers.




In recent years, we have seen that the unrest among the peasantry is growing. Resistance against the wrong policies of the central and various state governments is gaining strength. The anger of the peasantry was well reflected in the Lok Sabha elections where they have rejected the BJP and its allies lock stock and barrel.


The struggle of the peasantry against globalisation was visible all over the country. The issues on which these struggles were waged included: remunerative prices, against privatisation of electricity, against the demolition of the PDS system, demanding relief for food and drought affected people, credit facilities etc. Some of these struggles were spontaneous and some organised. But it should be seen that in many of these struggles peasantry was able to get at least few of their demands accepted by the various state governments. This has given confidence to the peasantry to strengthen the movement.


Though in most parts of the country the peasant movement is still weak, the growing resistance among the peasantry and the widening of the movement to newer pockets should be seen as a positive achievement of the peasant movement. The land struggle and the struggle of the tribals against evictions in many states has pushed the state governments back to some extent.


Let us finish with the encouraging example of a militant struggle by the peasantry in Rajasthan. A prolonged and united struggle was waged by the peasants of Rajasthan in the Ganga Nagar and Bikaneer districts for adequate supply of water through the Rajasthan canal. The struggle which began in October, lasted for 76 days. The BJP state government let loose a reign of terror to suppress the struggle of the peasantry for their genuine demands. Six persons were killed and many hundreds were injured in this repression. Even military was deployed by the BJP government and curfew was imposed.


The peasantry stood firm in the face of such bullying tactics of the state government. The unity and firmness shown by the peasantry forced the BJP government to beat a retreat and concede all the demands of the peasantry and release all those who were arrested.


Such experiences of struggles definitely give confidence to the peasantry. Even though the situation is not an easy one, it is definitely full of opportunities for further growth of the peasants’ movement. Let us welcome the future with the pledge that we will make it historic with still more determined fights.