People's Democracy(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
June 17, 2007
6th Conference Of Khet Mazdoor Union Calls For Land Struggle
THE sixth conference of AIAWU Orissa state unit was held on May 19-20, 2007 at Manida, a panchayat headquarter village of tribal dominated Mayurbhanj district. This is a village where Left candidates got elected to panchayat for the last three consecutive terms. The organisers moved from door to door of these tribal villages of Rasgovindpur block for collecting membership and donations for the conference. The movement for higher wages to agricultural labourers has popularised the organisation in this area.
An impressive rally consisting of more than a thousand agricultural labourers, men and women, with their traditional musical instrument madal reached the meeting place. The chhau dance and other folk dances of adivasis added colour to the rally. The all India joint secretary of AIAWU and a member of parliament Hannan Mollah addressed the rally and explained that the struggle of Left parties inside and outside parliament has enabled the formation of REGA and the Right to Forest Land Act. He emphasised that the struggle for proper implementation of these two Acts has to be continued. He charged the Congress-led UPA government of utter failure to curb the price rise. The UPA government is implementing many anti-people policies of the NDA government. More than 50 lakh labourers are present in the state and a powerful movement should be organised against such anti-people policies and expose the failures of BJD-BJP coalition government, he said. Ex-president of Orissa Krushak Sabha, Jagannath Mishra addressed the public meeting besides Sishir Hui who called upon the landless people to occupy government lands if the state government fails to grant land pattas to them. Nityananda Parida, state secretary, Prafulla Padhi and Badrinarayan Dash also spoke on the occasion. The meeting was presided over by Harish Chandra Singh.
On May 19, Hannan Mollah inaugurated the delegate session. He emphasised the need for expanding the organisation in the state given the present situation. The issues of landless labourers, largely comprising dalits and scheduled tribes should be taken up and an effective movement should be launched to organise them apart from taking up the burning regional problems. We have to locate the problems one by one and organise the people for sustained struggle, he said.
Hannan Mollah stressed that the membership which is the base for the movement should be increased. Through out the year this drive must continue. Primary units are to be strengthened and unless it is done, organisation and struggle cannot be enhanced and for this committed cadres are needed. He added that the leaders and active members of the movement must be brought to the forefront and these cadres must be entrusted responsibility of advancing the organisation.
The presidium comprised of Prafulla Padhy, Harish Chandra Singh and Sula Dehuri. The steering committee consisted of Sishir Hui, Nityananda Parida and Badri Narayan Dash and the credential committee of Bidyadhar Jena and Rabi Mohanty. More than 100 delegates from 12 districts including 10 women delegates participated in the conference. The report was placed by Nityananda Parida and 23 delegates took part in the discussions on the report. The membership strength has gone up to 15,000 from over 7,000 at the time of the last conference.
The conference planned to expand the organisation to 15 districts and increase the membership to 50,000 by the next conference. The conference decided to concentrate as priority areas and build the organisation in 30 blocks. It was decided that three comrades would function from the state centre.
DISMAL STATE OF THE POOR
Orissa, a poor state of our country, has 30 lakh families who are landless while the state government holds 20 lakh acres of surplus land. The government had decided in principle to distribute one acre of cultivable land and 0.4 acre of homestead land to each landless family, but till date it has not implemented this and whatever little land it distributed, the beneficiaries did not get possession of it and the administration is silent.
In the state, agricultural production, particularly of foodgrains, is declining due to the impact of neo-liberal economic reforms. Electricity charges have increased four times during this BJD-BJP regime as the distribution system is privatised. ‘Pani panchayat’ system has shifted the entire responsibility of electricity for irrigation on to the farmers. Many lift irrigation points are now closed down, because farmers are unable to bear the high rates of power. It is worth mentioning that only 20 per cent of cultivable land is irrigated. Farmers are unable to get support price for their produce. Decreasing man-days for agricultural work led to increased migration. About one lakh people, men and women, every year leave the state in search of work and livelihood in distant states and settle as bonded labour.
The public distribution system is in tantrums. Poor people are denied BPL cards. Kerosene is sold in black market at a higher price. Rice under ‘Annapurna’ and ‘Antyodaya’ schemes also find a way to the black market. Rural dealers hoodwink the illiterate poor and sell the goods in the black market. The state government has shut its eyes totally to these irregularities.
Neither the job cards nor the guaranteed work for 100 days is given to the applicants under the REGA scheme. It is observed in different districts that sarpanchs and contractors retain the job cards, collect money from the applicants for form, photos etc and trouble them. In some cases the contractors use machines for the project and do not pay the labourers in order to increase their profits. In the districts of Ganjam and Mayurbhanj, Khet Mazdoor Union protested against this but the government has not taken any action on this so far.
The BJD-BJP led state government is following the neo-liberal economic reforms and therefore has curtailed employment in state government offices, educational institutions etc. The number of unemployed has doubled in the meanwhile. The number of people living below poverty line has increased to 49 per cent and the state ranks second in the country in the poverty list. But the government is not bothered about these and is heading for massive industrialisation, though only on paper, by signing MoUs and agreements. And in every agreement the multinational companies have been given enormous advantages at the cost of people and the state. Some of the instances include the major concessions to private industry groups in leasing out the mines.
The state government has withdrawn its responsibility from health and education. Rather it is interested to handover every thing in this sector to private houses. Many multinational and national business houses are being given land for opening educational institutions and health care centres.
Orissa shares a sizeable portion of scheduled caste and scheduled tribe population of the country. The government is paying only lip service to the problems of these people and nothing is translated in practice.
The state secretary of Orissa Krishak Sabha, Abhiram Behera, greeted the conference and appealed for united movement of both the organisations. He explained the impact of globalisation on agriculture and farmers. CITU, DYFI and AIDWA Orissa state committees sent their greetings wishing success of the conference.
A new state committee consisting of 25 members was unanimously elected by the conference. Both Harish Chandra Singh as president and Nityananda Parida as secretary have been re-elected. Sishir Hui, Prafulla Padhy, Badri Narayan Dash were elected as vice-presidents and Bidyadhar Jena, Pradeep Jeet, Nayana Nayak were elected as joint secretaries.
The conference concluded on a note of renewed enthusiasm, zeal and vigour of the representatives of khet mazdoors who went back with strong determination of expansion of the organisation that can really built up meaningful khet mazdoor struggle in the state in the coming days.