People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
September 10, 2006
AIAWU To Intensify Struggle On Burning Issues Of Agricultural Labour
THE central working committee of the All India Agricultural Workers Union met in New Delhi on August 26-27, 2006. The meeting was attended by leaders of the organised agricultural workers movement from all over the country. The meeting was presided over by Paturu Ramayya, MLA and president of the union.
A Vijayaraghavan, MP and general secretary of the union, placed the report on the serious agrarian crisis gripping the country today. The share of agriculture as part of the GDP has declined from 54 per cent twenty years ago to only 25 per cent today. Three lakh thirty thousand landed peasants have become landless labourers each year. At the same time the days of work available have declined considerably on account of mechanisation, the shift from food to cash crops, the lack of credit and failure to get remunerative prices. Unemployment has increased by leaps and bounds. The government policies of cutting down funds for rural development on the basis of an antiquated belief that small farms are not remunerative and corporate landownership is the only alternative, have unleashed worst effects on the poor who are least able to fend for themselves.
Worse, the government’s policy of forward trading in foodgrains, opening up our markets to foreign grain traders and not allowing the FCI to buy at higher prices has led to a serious gap in the amount of grain available for the PDS. To make up the deficiency, the government has chosen to import grain at high prices from foreign grain merchants who were allowed to buy it at cheap prices from our farmers in the first place. So, without persistent and widespread agitation, it would be impossible to prevent the marginalisation, unemployment and starvation of agricultural labour.
The report highlighted the fact that the framing of the Common Minimum Programme of UPA and the successful passage of the Right to Information Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act were largely a result of the unprecedented presence of the Left at the center, and the victories of the LDF in West Bengal and Kerala.
Struggle for the tribal rights bill and the comprehensive central legislation for agricultural labour for which we have been fighting over the last three decades must be intensified. Our active participation as a mass movement to pass these legislations and our struggles for implementing the NREGA, the PDS, and for higher wages, as well as our resistance to oppression of dalits, had borne fruit and the union membership had increased by nearly four lakhs in the last year. The committee hoped to hold the sixth all India conference of the union in Punjab with a membership of over 40 lakh early next year, after the assembly election in that state. To achieve this the activity of the union must be intensified and sustained organizationally, underlined the committee.
The future programme, endorsed by the working committee, was placed by Suneet Chopra, joint secretary of the union. In September, a grass-roots campaign down from the district to the village level will be organised to ensure that even those in the remotest areas do not give in to misery and despair. In the months of October and November, mass district level conventions are to be held on the issues of food and employment highlighting the price rise in food grains, the failure to provide BPL cards, the failure to give adequate supplies for PDS, the deplorable decline in rural employment and the state of implementation of the NREGA. In fact, the AIAWU all India centre has planned to monitor its implementation and guide its state units in UP, Bihar, MP and other northern states to ensure its proper functioning, as well as providing information to other states.
In the same way, the ongoing programme of holding conventions on dalit problems and issues is to be carried on to the district level and state level after the cadres of the union have visited dalit settlements, made contact with dalit labourers and encouraged them to come to these meetings where progressive people from all walks of life will stand shoulder to shoulder with them to ensure they move forward to success with courage.
The issue of land too has to be addressed as the government was backtracking on the tribal rights bill and did not appear to approve of the recommendations of the joint parliamentary committee before which the union also had put forward its demands. Worse, large tracts of land which could have been handed over to the landless were being gifted to MNCs and corporates and even those areas were not exempted where farmers were getting three to four harvests a year and providing work for agricultural labour. Struggles need to be organised against this landgrab by corporates in collusion with the central and state governments committed to World Bank-dictated reforms. One has no objection to land being given for development but only that land which is not providing enough work in agriculture could be earmarked for development purposes.
Both organised wage struggles and a campaign for a comprehensive central legislation have to be undertaken in accordance with the agrarian activity of different states. It was stressed in the committee meeting that the burning issues of agricultural labour and the rural poor could no longer wait for a solution. They had to be tackled on a war footing.
It was decided that the general council of the AIAWU will meet in Mumbai on November 7 and 8, 2006. It was also proposed to hold a class for the northern region in Allahabad. The twenty-fifth year of the founding of the AIAWU will be observed next year with fervour and militancy starting with a mass gathering at New Delhi. This would provide an excellent opportunity to launch membership campaigns vigorously all over the country.