People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 15

April 19, 2009


AIAWU’s Appeal To Agricultural Labourers

THE people of India are going to vote for constituting the fifteenth Lok Sabha. The journey had been a long and difficult one, particularly for the poor. Dispossessed and without work, with growing debts and living on the verge of the starvation, they can be forgiven if they think nothing better is possible.

But it is. The people of India have already rejected one party rule by
the Congress. They then rejected the Janta party over the manner in
which the BJP pursued the divisive agenda of the RSS under cover of a
common party. Then we saw a series of coalition governments led by different elements. We are still in that phase. The coming election will bring together yet again another coalition government to power. But every coalition allows people to express their hopes through their own nominees in the collective. So far the collectives were largely dominated by the two parties representing the monopolists and the landlords, collaborating with the USA and the foreign capital to exploit the Indian people, the majority of who are farmers and workers.

Around 84 crore people are living on Rs 20 per person per day. Of these, 24 crore live on Rs 9 per person per day. The opportunity to work in rural
areas is going down regularly. From 100 days a year in 1990s we have come just to 57 days of  work in agriculture today. Wages have remained stagnant or gone  down. Competition has increased with migrants from less fortunate areas, out of work weavers, craftsmen  and now even the redundant  factory workers joining the rural labour force. At the same time rural indebtedness has increased from 26 per cent of the people in 1991 to 48.6 per cent in 2003. Most of these are loans from private money lenders as cheap government loans are not given to the farmers but to big agri businesses like Pepsi, Kellogg’s, Hindustan Lever and Conagra. These companies borrow crores of rupees per loan and the government pays them out as farmers’ loans. The UPA proposes to give loans to money lenders, traders, commission agents, vehicle dealers and petrol pump owners as accredited loan providers. So how will the farmers and labourers get the credit?
The rural poor had only one resource, to sell their land, house sites
and cattle. And they are doing it. Nearly 33 lakh farmers have become landless each year while the cattle wealth of the poor has come down to a fifth of what it was.

With no work, growing debts and no assets, can one be surprised that some 1,66,304 agricultural labourers and farmers have committed suicide in the recent period of Congress and BJP-led governments. And a victory for the either the Congress and the BJP can lead only to more misery. Already the growth in food production has gone below the growth rate of the population. And while the government claims inflation has come down, the rate of inflation for the food items remains at between 7 per cent and 10 per cent. So a large number of people already face starvation, and their number will increase.

There is a feeling that the people have no choice between
rahu and ketu. If rahu goes ketu comes, so nothing can change, but that is no longer so. Already in the last election, a powerful Left lobby emerged in parliament. And thanks to it the UPA was forced to adopt a pro-people Common Minimum Programme. They did not implement it fully but as a result of it we got the National  Rural Employment Guarantee Act, the Forest Rights Act, the Right to Information Act, all of which helped to make life liveable for those who would have starved or committed suicide otherwise. This time the Left forces have gone one step ahead. They have made common cause with the secular regional parties and other pro-people elements to create a third alternative. This allows people not only to express their anger at the NDA and UPA for their anti-people policies by refusing to vote for them but they also have the choice of voting for forces committed to implementing  alternative policies like land reforms and an effective PDS, increased credit to farmers at cheaper rates, land and house sites to the landless, a comprehensive crop insurance scheme, proper minimum support prices, a crackdown on speculators to bring prices back  to normal, the cancellation of debts of all small farmers and agricultural labour, and comprehensive
legislation for agricultural labourers  on the Kerala pattern.

For this we must unite. Our numbers have been growing over the years and we can make a difference if we come together and defeat the threat to our security posed by a handful of greedy moneybags, landlords,
speculators and black marketeers. This is not as difficult as it sounds. All we have to do is to defeat those who divide us on the basis of caste, religion or area. It is only because we are divided that we fail to make our mark. This election must be the first to ensure the decisive victory of the working people and the poor. We can do it and we must.

Let us campaign for jobs for the jobless, food for the hungry, land and houses for the landless, free education and free health facilities, The cancellation of debts of poor farmers and agricultural labourers, remunerative prices for farmers produce, subsidised prices for farm inputs and the public distribution system, cheap credits at 4 per cent interest, at least 15 per cent of the GDP to be invested in agriculture, the proper implementation of NREGA, RTI, and the Forest Rights Acts,
as well as the passage of a comprehensive central legislation for
agricultural labour, which both the NDA and the UPA refused to pass, and special attention to be paid to the condition of the dalits, minorities, backward classes and women who are the most adversely affected by the policies of liberalisation, privatisation and globalisation. Effective policies must be implemented to ensure they do not remain mere promises.
To do this the first step is to make certain that the third alternative parties and candidates win from your areas and the country as a whole.

Let us unite to vote first. Our numbers are enough to ensure our victory. Let us work to win this time. Then we can continue our fight to achieve a better life, equality and justice with our growing strength.