People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 17, 2007
GEARING UP TO MEET THE CHALLENGES
Successful 6th Conference Of AIAWU
THE sixth all India conference of AIAWU was held at Bhagat Singh Nagar in Nawanshehar district of Punjab from June 3 to 5, 2007. The conference was attended by 664 delegates from different states, representing a membership of 42,50,754. Delegates from Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh could not come because of the Gujjar agitation in Rajasthan, Haryana and Delhi. Once the membership from Gujarat is received the figure of growth since our last conference in Thrissur will be well above 46 per cent.
This is not an accident. Agricultural labour has suffered the most under the liberalisation-privatisation-globalisation (LPG) policies imposed on us by the IMF-WB-WTO and assiduously followed by the Indian ruling classes, driven both by their greed and class interest. As Paturii Ramayya, the all India president of AIAWU noted in his presidential address: “The LPG policies have ruined the living conditions of the rural poor to a large extent in the country. But we have been involved in various economic, social and political struggles and gained very rich experience. This experience will be much more useful for carrying on the struggles in the coming period. The rural toiling masses are coming forward in militant struggles on their burning issues. Our organisation should avail of this opportunity and lead their struggles”. He summed up the mood of the conference.
In his inaugural address S Ramachandran Pillai, the president of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) highlighted the manner in which successive governments at the centre had ignored agricultural labour in their prescriptions for dealing with the crisis in agriculture. Even at the recent National Development Council meet, agriculture was discussed for a whole day, but agricultural labour, who constitute nearly half the population engaged in farming, were totally ignored. This could happen only when the crisis in agriculture is looked at as just a question of growth and not of agrarian relationships. To ensure higher growth, the pauperised must be uplifted, the unemployed be given work, the landless land. Then the creative energy of those who have been exploited and oppressed for centuries by the caste system, bondage and violence, can hope to free themselves and break the shackles that bind our agriculture from head to toe. The government was merely making cosmetic changes to policies. This could only compound the problem further. What was required was a fundamental alternative agricultural policy that addressed itself to the primary producer and his needs that the AIKS and AIAWU could come forward and fight together.
The general secretary A Vijayaraghavan placed the issues before agricultural labour squarely. If successive governments of India were determinedly touting the policies of the World Bank, multinationals and the WTO, these policies had already failed on a global scale with the Doha round of talks coming to a standstill. In India too, the NDA alliance had given way to a UPA alliance with outside support of 63 MPs of the Left. And it is because of them that US president Bush was not allowed to address the joint session of parliament; the UPA had to adopt a common minimum programme; it had passed the Right to Information Act, the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Tribal Land Traditional Forest Dwellers (Rights) Act, the Domestic Violence Act etc; and it had to make efforts to curb the prices of essential commodities and petroleum products.
He pointed out that none of this could have been achieved without our struggles on the ground. He made a special note of the work of our state unit of Andhra, which had undertaken a massive effort at implementing the NREGA and had registered a record growth of 6,42,499 with a membership of 12,65,283. In the same period, Tamilnadu had almost doubled its membership to 4,35,748. Maharashtra more than doubled its membership to 83,540. Karnataka had tripled it to 72,689. Kerala had crossed 18 lakh and Tripura 2 lakh.
In the north, Punjab had gone above one lakh, as had Bihar. But the Hindi-speaking states still presented a sorry picture with MP – where 82.5 per cent of the agrarian workforce is wage earners – enrolling only 1500 members; with Rajasthan (having 72.9 per cent wage earners) enrolling only 22,000; with Haryana (having a wage earning labour force of 69.6 per cent) enrolling 18,030; with UP (having a wage earning labour force of 72.8 per cent) enrolling 67,535 members and Bihar with a wage-earning labour force of 77.9 per cent enrolling 1,36,610 members. In a self-critical manner the report noted that the leadership of these states left much to be desired. Village units were few and functioning ones even fewer. In some states like UP other duties had been heaped on key office bearers crippling the state centre. So a call was given to expand our village level contacts and tighten the functioning of the organisation from the state centre down.
The heartening feature was that all states, whatever their membership, had come forward to fight for their rights in response to central calls and on their own. The issue of NREGA was taken up most successfully in Andhra, followed up by Tripura, Tamilnadu, Maharashtra and Karnataka. The issues of land, PDS and conventions against atrocities on dalits were held in Haryana, UP and Bihar. Our Rajasthan unit was in the forefront of the joint struggle for water rights in Ganganagar and Hanumangarh. But while spontaneous struggles were led and calls were observed, in the weaker regions they tended to be formal observances in general. A call was given to address local issues and carry struggles forward to their conclusion to expand our reach among the masses.
The conference also passed a new Statement of Policy and made certain amendments to the Constitution. Resolutions remembering our comrades, leaders of the democratic movement and martyrs; on the land struggle; a call to defeat imperialist predatory military design; for the implementation of Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Rights) Act, NREGA, BPL cards for all agricultural labour families, PDS and Food security and central legislation for agricultural labour; a resolution was also passed for special action on women agricultural workers demands, those of migrant labour, and for united struggle against atrocities and social discrimination against dalits. The conference passed a resolution thanking the reception committee for its excellent arrangements.
SILVER JUBILEE OF THE UNION
The conference approved of a programme to observe the 25th anniversary of the formation of the union in a befitting manner. It called for movements to be launched on the issues of land to the tiller, comprehensive central legislation on agricultural labour, universalisation of PDS, and extending NREGA to all districts of the country. It stressed how the implementation of NREGA was to be the primary concern of our state units following the experience of Andhra. Three jathas (one from Amritsar (Punjab) and one from Patna (Bihar) and third from Thiruvananthapuram (Kerala) will be planned in 2007 itself to highlight agricultural labour demands. It further planned a national level convention against atrocities on dalits at New Delhi and special conventions on the problems of women agricultural workers in all states in the coming two years as well as those on migrant labour.
For highlighting the land issue, struggles are to be undertaken for house-sites, lavatories, access to water, schools, health centres and against the blind allocation of land to industrialists, real estate sharks and mafias for SEZs instead of dividing up that land among the landless. Armed with this programme, the conference concluded: “We have achieved much. We have much more to achieve. But today we have the confidence of the last four years to ensure we will move forward in the development of our organisation as never before”.