People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIV

No. 01

January 03, 2010

Onto the All India Conference of AIKS

K Varadarajan

THE 32nd conference of the All India Kisan Sabha will be held at Guntur from January 7 to 10, 2010. It is four years since the 31st conference was held at Nashik, Maharashtra, in January 2006. Guntur has a special place in the history of the peasant movement in India. During the freedom movement, Kannegahti Hanumantu mobilised farmers of Palnadu region against the imposition of taxes by the colonial rulers over forest produce. This struggle occupies a prominent place in the history of the Indian freedom struggle.

 

The people of the district took part on a large scale in the non-cooperation movement. In Bapatla-Pedanandipadu regions, famous freedom fighter Duggivala Gopala Krishnaiah led the peasants and refused to pay taxes on farm produce. During the historic Telengana struggle, Guntur region acted as a rear as well as ensured continuous supplies to the struggling “dalams”

 

Agrarian Crisis

Intensifies

 

Indian agriculture has been going through severe distress under the neo-liberal policy regime. Government policies during the past two decades have not only intensified the plight of the farm sector including both the peasantry and the agricultural labour, but also increased hunger and malnutrition among large sections of people. The situation has only worsened since the last conference.

 

There are several linkages between the global crisis and Indian agriculture.

 

As the quantitative restrictions on agricultural trade were removed under the WTO regime, there was steep decline in the prices of agricultural commodities in developing countries because of the increased import of heavily subsidised cheaper agricultural goods into the domestic market. The farmers growing oil seeds and cotton have already been affected. This impact will spread to other commodities also.

 

Agriculture cannot be made sustainable without subsidy. The developed countries which give subsidies to the extent of 90 per cent are compelling the developing nations to reduce it in order to penetrate their market. Under their pressure the Indian government has cut subsidy from 4 per cent to 3 per cent. This will adversely impact Indian agriculture.

 

Because of the global economic slowdown, India’s exports of tea, coffee, spices, meat and dairy products are being adversely affected.

For the past two decades agriculture has been in crisis due to decline in public investment, steep increase in input costs, collapse of output prices because of unrestricted cheap imports, decline in the amount and increase in the cost of institutional credit, decline in rural development expenditure leading to weakening the research and extension systems and the collapse of the public distribution system due to targeting.

 

Slowdown of

Agricultural Growth

 

The acute agrarian crisis and slowdown of agricultural growth in 2008-09 have had a severe impact in the rural areas. The misery has been compounded by the deficient monsoon and severe drought conditions during Kharif sowing this year. This has led to a drastic reduction in the acreage of all the major crops. 23 of the 36 Met sub-divisions in the country received deficient rainfall ranging from 20 per cent to 59 per cent. Nearly 300 districts across the country have been declared as drought hit or having drought-like conditions. There has been a shortfall in paddy cultivation over the normal cropped area by nearly 76 lakh hectares, i.e. lower than the last year by 61.09 lakh hectares. The case of other crops like bajra, maize, jowar, groundnut and sugarcane is also not encouraging. At the advent of the Rabi season many states faced a situation of unprecedented floods that have destroyed the standing crops. The floods have caused untold damage and loss of lives in many states.

 

 

The adverse conditions have led to a spate of suicides in many states. According to NCRB farmers’ suicides account for 14.4 per cent of all suicides and for the six years from 2002 the annual average has risen to 17,366 from 15,747 during 1997-2001. It must be noted here that women farmers are not acknowledged as farmers as land is normally not in their names. Their existence is often seen only in terms of their relation to the male farmers. Thus, countless women farmer suicides are excluded. The much-hyped packages to the suicide prone regions were limited in scope and related mainly to Vidarbha.

 

 

The despair within the farming community is natural. Of the 89.33 million farm households in India nearly 43.42 million farm households are indebted. Small and marginal farmers constitute 83.8 per cent of the farm households and of them 46.28 per cent are indebted. The much-hyped loan waiver scheme has also not addressed the loans from informal sources. The government has not accepted the crucial proposals of the National Commission on Farmers like the setting up of a price stabilisation fund for agricultural produce, the universalisation of the crop insurance scheme, increased public expenditure on rural development, food subsidy and employment generation etc. The recommendation of the Commission to reduce the interest rates to 4 per cent which would have benefited farmers in distress has also not been implemented.

 

Land Question and

the Rural Poor

Under the neo-liberal dispensation there has been a distinct trend to reverse land reforms and undermine land-ceiling laws. As a result of the agrarian distress, the peasantry, particularly the poorer sections, are increasingly being forced to sell their assets including land and livestock. We are witnessing the advent of MNCs into the countryside in the form of contract farming and corporatisation as well as the dilution of ceiling laws in many states. Farmers are increasingly becoming landless. The NSSO 63rd round estimates the proportion of landless households as 35 per cent in 2006-07.

 

Then there are many other issues of exorbitant input costs, the Asean Free Trade Agreement, GM crops and seed monopolies etc that plague the agrarian scenario.

 

Intensified

Struggles

 

It is against this background that the All India Kisan Sabha at its 31st conference in Nasik had given the call to intensify struggles. Towards this end, the conference had also give a call to conduct jathas from the four corners of the country. These jathas culminated in a mass rally in Delhi on November 20, 2006 which saw the participation of over 40,000 people.

 

During this period, the AIKS was also in the forefront for the implementation of the Tribal Rights Act and the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act. Together with the CITU and the AIAWU, a joint demonstration was conducted on April 18, 2007 all over India for proper implementation of REGA and PDS, issue of ration cards and stoppage of caste atrocities in different parts of the country which saw the participation by lakhs of peasants, workers and other common people.

 

While fighting for remunerative prices, the AIKS has also been in the forefront campaigning against rise in prices of essential commodities and food items in particular.

 

A fortnight long campaign was conducted in July 2008 against the neo-liberal policies pursued by the central government which is leading to the acute distress and pauperisation of the peasantry and consequent suicides in various parts of the country. The demands included amendment to loan waiver scheme, credit at 4 per cent interest, reduction in prices of inputs and consumer goods, strengthen procurement on remunerative prices of agricultural produces, comprehensive crop insurance scheme, proper implementation of NREGA and Tribal Rights Act and house sites for the landless.

 

Taking this further, the AIKS organised a demonstration in Delhi on August 3, 2009 against price rise and demanding provision of adequate relief to the drought affected regions. A sizeable number of kisans from Haryana, Rajasthan and Western Uttar Pradesh participated in this protest rally.

 

While the period since the last conference witnessed a further deterioration in the agrarian scenario, it has also seen an intensification of the struggles conducted by the AIKS throughout the country and at the national level.

 

It is against this background that delegates assembling at Guntur during the four days between January 7 and 10, 2010  will deliberate on the issues confronting the agrarian sector and chalk out the tasks for the days ahead.