People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIV

No. 03

January 17, 2010

AIAWU To Hold Demos Before Parliament

 

MEETING at Mumbai on January 2 and 3, the central working committee (CWC) of the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) noted with grave concern that the condition of as many as 80 per cent of India’s population is going from bad to worse. The latest figures released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) indicate that India has come down from the 66th to the 68th position among 122 countries on the International Food Index. This is alarming for a country where 24 crore people are able to spend only Rs nine per person per day and some 83 crores are able to spend only Rs 20 per person per day. There has been a shortfall of paddy cultivation over last year in over 61 lakh hectares, and in cases of other crops like bajra, wheat, maize, jowar, pulses, groundnut and sugar cane as well. 

In the opinion of the CWC, the facile explanation that the government can buy from abroad is no solution as whenever India enters the global market as a buyer, the prices go up three to four times. Even if the government buys the grain in the world market, over 70 per cent of the people cannot afford it. What is required is food security on our soil. India’s subsidy to farmers is, the CWC noted, only three per cent compared with 72 per cent in Japan and 39 per cent in the European Union. Therefore the CWC demanded that the subsidy should be increased considerably, a price stabilisation fund should be established and cheap credit at four per cent given to peasants as it is done to industry. Also, the government should ensure that not only are farmers given incentives to produce their own varieties of crops locally; they must be provided adequate extension services. The failure to do this adequately has led to a drop in the growth of foodgrains production which we can ill afford at the moment. 

According to the AIAWU CWC, this has affected agricultural labour far more seriously than any other section of the rural community. Not only do the agricultural workers have no legislation to govern their working conditions; they are also getting work for a lesser number of  days in agriculture. This is because of the policies that tend to reduce foodgrains production in favour of cash crops, due to mechanisation of agriculture and large-scale takeover of agricultural land for other purposes which has increased the number of landless labourers by 33 lakhs per year to nearly 15 crores today.  Also, foodgrain production has now gone lower than the population growth rate. So a rise in the food prices has become inevitable because of the UPA’s agrarian policies. 

The organisation charged that the government has ignored even the measures which could have helped ease the situation, like effectively implementing the NREGA and the Tribal and Other Forest-dwellers Rights Act, revamping the public distribution system, giving land to the landless and especially to the scheduled castes and tribes. Therefore famine conditions are prevailing in many parts of the country, though it has not yet been recognised. So there is no other alternative but to take to the path of struggles to ensure that policies likely to bring about pro-people changes are introduced and implemented.   

The AIAWU has demanded that the government must urgently raise the fund for NREGA to a minimum of Rs 40,000 crore, provide 250 days of work a year, pay wages on time, and involve organisations working for agricultural labour in strict social audits of implementation.  Unfortunately, the government has even removed such members from its committees. This process must be reversed. 

At the same time, the public distribution system must be made comprehensive, with a provision to provide all agricultural labourers BPL cards and grain at Rs two per kg, as an immediate measure to control the prices that are being raised by corrupt monopolists and hoarders of foodgrains and vegetables. 

As another measure to check the price rise, the government must ban all futures trading and undertake a vigorous dehoarding drive with strict punishment for those keeping the people deprived of cheap food. Also, assets must be restored to the people by giving the landless all the surplus, waste and falsely declared forest land under the 1980 Act that took no account of the existing settlements. They must be provided adequate support and subsidised inputs to increase food production on a war footing.  

Agricultural labour must be provided free electricity, drinking water and toilet facilities, and the debts owed by them must be cancelled. They must also be provided further loans at four per cent interest as is being done for industrialists already.

The AIAWU has decided to conduct an immediate agitation all over the country on these issues for a halt to the price rise. It will hold demonstrations in all states on the opening day of the budget session of parliament, followed by a mass rally at Delhi in April, at its conclusion. It has expressed the hope that the government will see reason and take the steps suggested so as to avoid facing mass actions.