People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
April 10, 2005
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
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
OF LAND REFORMS
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
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.
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.
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
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
government intervention and reduction of subsidies have already led to a steep
rise in prices of fertiliser and pesticides.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.