People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
December 24, 2006
AIAWU GENERAL COUNCIL MEET
‘Press for Central Law for Agr. Labour’
THE general council meeting of India’s largest agricultural workers’ organisation met on December 2-3, 2006 in Navi Mumbai to take stock of the situation in the country and discussed the measures necessary to make the life of 80 million agricultural labourers worth living. The meeting was presided over by Paturu Ramayya (M. L. A.), all India president of the Union and was guided by A. Vijay Raghavan (M. P.), general secretary, Sarangdhar Paswan (vice president), Hannan Mollah (M.P.) and Sunnet Chopra, joint secretaries.
The general council noted how vast changes were taking place in agriculture in an anti-labour and anti-peasant direction as a result of government policies dictated by global finance capital and Indian and multinational companies. These policies have resulted in the suicides of over 2 lakh peasants and the starvation deaths of 20,000 agricultural labourers and poor people in the last 8 years and expressed the determination to change them through a program of protracted struggle.
It highlighted positive developments like the defeat of the communal NDA government and its replacement at the centre by a secular UPA government and the presence of a strong Left in parliament. The Common Minimum Program with its stress on land reforms, employment, the PDS and steps to protect scheduled tribes, minorities, dalits, farmers, employees, workers and agricultural labour needs to be implemented by the UPA government. The passage of the NREGA, the Right to Information Act, the Domestic Violence Act and other legislations to protect the poor must be followed up by the Tribal Forest Rights Act, a comprehensive Central Legislation for agricultural labour and the Women’s Reservation Bill. The union intends to come forward to struggle for these legislations to be passed.
Noting the sharp reduction in the days of work available in agriculture because of the ill-advised policies of both the NDA and UPA governments to reduce government expenditure in rural development, abandoning food security and introducing job killing machinery like combine harvesters, the union has decided to intervene in the process of evolving a pro-people budget with mass action all over the country from February 1-10,2007.
The AIAWU welcomes the reduction of the petrol, diesel and oil products prices under Left pressure and demands that the universal PDS be restored all over the country with the Essential Commodities Legislations of 1951 and 1955 being enforced again. Till then, the quota system for BPL cards should be scrapped at once, with all agricultural labour families being given BPL cards automatically. The union also demands that all grains under the PDS be subsidised and sold at Rs. 4.30 per Kg., the price at which the NDA government sold grain to the US as pig feed, while Indian citizens were paying Rs. 7.10 per Kg. for it. If American pigs could be sold grain at Rs. 4.30 per Kg., Indian citizens have every right to get it at the same price.
The AIAWU demands that the funds under NREGA be doubled and the operation of the Law be extended to 400 districts in the country in the next budget. The union has decided to undertake the work of registering the jobless, getting work for them, ensuring proper wages for work done and seeing that facilities like drinking water, first aid, crèches and shade for resting, are provided at places of work not more than 5 kms away from their homes. AIAWU is prepared to work either as a nodal agency or independently and to struggle to prevent corruption in implementing the Right to Work.
AIAWU will also step up the demand for a Comprehensive Central Legislation for Agricultural Labour on the pattern of the Kerala Legislation of 1974. This is a demand that is being fought for over the last two decades, but the landlord lobby which allows wild animals to be protected by Law does not allow this protection to be extended to the most oppressed and exploited fellow citizens of theirs. AIAWU will not allow the budget session of parliament to pass without the voice of agricultural labour being heard.
The general council also passed a special resolution on the gruesome and savage murders of the Bhotmange Dalit Family members of Khairlanji village in Bhandara district and called for the immediate arrest of the criminals involved in the murders, the institution of a CBI inquiry by the central government and protection for the surviving head of the family. The failure of the Maharashtra government to ensure punishment of the murderers and compensate the victims will be met with a statewide agitation.
The general council also approved the decision to hold the Sixth all India conference with a membership of 50 Lakhs on June 3-5, 2007 at Navashahar in Punjab near Bhagat Singh’s home village, Khatkar Kalan. The conference will be attended by over 1000 delegates from all parts of the country and will be decisive in determining the future of 80 million of the poorest Indians.
The Union is of the firm opinion that organisation is the only way to prevent spontaneous violence and suicides of despair and that global problems like marginalisation, unemployment and exploitation can only be countered by broad based class organisations being more united and effective than those based on sect or caste. This meeting has appreciated the excellent work done in states like Kerala, Tripura, Punjab and Andhra, not to speak of sterling efforts of the organisation to meet the challenges in Tamilnadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Karnataka, to name only a few of the centers of activity. The coming year will see an expansion of AIAWU’s activities into new areas with vigour.