People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIV

No. 03

January 17, 2010

32nd All India Conference of AIKS

Calls for Nationwide Campaign in February

 

N S Arjun from Guntur

 

THE 32nd all India conference of AIKS has decided to launch a nationwide campaign movement in the month of February on two important issues:  in defence of the struggle of people of West Bengal against ongoing attacks launched by reactionary forces; and against the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) made by the government of India with ASEAN. Taking note of the grave agrarian crisis that is making farming increasingly unviable for majority of peasantry, the conference also resolved to undertake a nationwide united struggle against reversal of land reforms in the non-Left ruled states on a priority basis.

AIKS president S Ramachandran Pillai in his concluding address to the conference, which was held in Guntur during January 7-10, 2009, called upon the delegates to see that the February campaign movement is conducted with vigour all over the country. Rallies, demonstrations, seminars and symposiums would be held across the country exposing the terror campaign of Trinamul Congress-'Maoists' combine unleashed in the state of West Bengal.  A total of 141 comrades were murdered in the period after the last parliamentary elections, a large number of whom were from the poorest and socially deprived sections. Thousands of Left Front supporters were forced to leave their villages and their houses torched. Hundreds of share-croppers and patta holders were evicted from their lands. The kisans along with other democratic sections of people are engaged in a grim battle with these reactionary forces. In such  a situation, the AIKS decided to launch a countrywide solidarity movement in defence of struggle for democracy in Bengal.

The adverse impact of FTA with ASEAN, which has come into force from  January 1, 2010, would be felt by the peasantry, fishermen, workers in textile and light manufacturing goods industries. The import of cheap agro products from the countries of ASEAN will hit our farmers adversely. At a time when even rich farmers are unable to withstand the adverse impact of neo-liberal reforms in our country, this agreement would crush the small farmers. Therefore a nationwide movement to make the UPA government roll back this measure is needed, he stressed.

The 32nd conference underlined that the present situation offers tremendous scope for the expansion of movement and called for strengthening and improving all aspects of organisation to make use of this opportunity. He thanked the AP unit of AIKS for successfuly conducting the all India conference at a time of difficult political situation in the state due to agitations for division of state and integrated state.

 

GEN-SEC

REPORT

Earlier, after the inaugural session on January 7, AIKS general secretary K Varadharajan placed a 56-page general secretary's report in the conference. The report analyses the developments in agrarian sector with particular emphasis on their impact on the peasantry, and reviews the work of the organisation since the last conference held in Nashik in January 2006. It notes that the dominant imperialist powers are seeking their way out of the present global economic crisis by seeking to further penetrate and dominate the markets of developing countries through WTO, World Bank and IMF. The burden of the crisis is being shifted to the peasantry, rural labour and the working class in our country also. The peasantry is the hardest hit due to the policies of liberalisation-privatisation-globalisation being aggressively pursued by successive governments at the centre. These have resulted in a situation where the Indian peasant today faces rapidly rising input costs; declining and volatile output prices; higher cost of credit and lesser access to it; declining irrigation and infrastructure facilities; weak domestic market due to collapse of PDS and cut-backs in State expenditure etc.

Noting that the agrarian crisis has intensified in the last four years, the report blames the UPA government of going back on its promises made to the Indian peasantry. Its non-implementation of the recommendations of the M S Swaminathan-chaired National Commission on Farmers has been particularly criticised. The misery of Indian peasants has been compounded by the deficient monsoon and severe drought conditions in the past one year. There has been a shortfall in paddy cultivation by nearly 76 lakh hectares and similar decreases in case of other crops like bajra, maize, jowar, groundnut etc. The government has provided little support in terms of Plan outlays to overcome the acute agrarian crisis. The allocation for agriculture and allied activities alone declined from around 16 per cent to 10.5 per cent between 2008-09 and 2009-10 budget estimates. The skewed nature of economic growth and the magnitude of rural-urban divide is reflected from the following fact: the share of agriculture, which was 36.4 per cent of GDP in 1982-83, declined to 18.4 per cent in 2006-07, although it continues to provide employment to 52 per cent of workforce. While the population grew by 1.9 per cent during 1990-2007, foodgrains production grew only by 1.2 per cent, resulting in decline in per capita cereal production and consumption.

The magnitude of the crisis is also borne out from the fact that between the two censuses of 1991 and 2001, nearly 8 million people quit farming, most of them being small and marginal farmers who constitute a large majority of cultivating peasantry (nearly 84 per cent of all farmer households). Around 46.28 per cent of these small and marginal farmers are indebted. Thus a large section still remains untouched by the much tom-tommed loan waiver scheme of the government. This is resulting in a situation where increasing number of peasants are committing suicides. According to the National Crime Records Bureau data, farmer 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. Countless women farmers' suicides are excluded from this data because they are not considered as farmers as land is usually in the name of their husbands.

On the question of land, the report notes the distinct trend to reverse land reforms. With farming become univable, many poor peasants are forced to sell their assets including land and livestock. The advent of MNCs into the countryside in the form of contract farming and corporatisation as well as the attempts in many states for 'land consolidation' through dilution of land ceiling laws is a serious problem. As per the 63rd round National Sample Survey (NSS) on land and livestock, conducted in 2006-07, the proportion of landless households at the all India level is 35 per cent. It has increased from 22 per cent during the 40th round NSS conducted in 1992-93. Identifying the SEZs as a serious threat to the peasantry, the report underlined that the AIKS will have to take up struggles to protect the limited gains of land reforms and to ensure that the governments do not compromise the farmers' interests before the land sharks and MNCs.

The report also deals with the issues of skyrocketing prices and food security; exorbitant input costs, price volatility and unremunerative prices; Indo-ASEAN FTA that sounds the death knell of Indian farmers; GM crops and perpetuation of seed monopolies; drastic changes in the sugar policy at the behest of sugar lobby; dismantling of extension services; the condition of dalits, tribals and women; implementation of NREGA and Forest Rights Act. The experience of the Left-led governments of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura has been highlighted under a separate section.

As for major activities conducted during this period, the report lists out the all India jathas taken out from the four corners of the country in 2006, which culminated in a massive rally in New Delhi on November 20, 2006 that saw participation of around 40,000 kisans from all over the country. The rally took forward the slogan 'Save Peasantry, Save Agriculture, Save the Country' and called upon peasants to give up suicides and join the struggle. The campaign  undertaken by various units on the demands of tribals, particularly implementation of the Tribal Forest Rights Act; the actions and interventions in regard to implementation of NREGA and PDS; the vigorous campaign organised against price rise and anti-people policies of the central government during August 16-30, 2007; the national seminar held at Wayanad in Kerala along with the AIAWU, which helped formulating the organisations' response to the global economic crisis effectively etc were mentioned. Apart from these, many struggles and campaigns were conducted by the state units on specific issues, including land, water, power, NREGA, Forest Rights etc.

 

DISCUSSION

A total of 37 delegates participated in the discussion on the general secretary's report that was held on January 8. While endorsing the report, the delegates shared their experiences in the states and gave concrete suggestions for issues that needed to be taken up and for strengthening the organisation. Almost all opined that the question of land is assuming great importance in the present juncture and advocated taking it up in a big way nationwide. They explained how land is being alienated from the peasants by private corporates, SEZs etc and how some governments were acting as real estate brokers, aiding this process. Some delegates pointed out how the ruling classes are bringing forward divisive issues to the fore in order to break the unity of people at a time when the full impact of neo-liberal policies is being felt. Rajasthan comrades told of RSS effort in this regard in their state to break the unity of farmers. Similarly the developments in Andhra Pradesh and Congress party's efforts to rake up differences between tribals and non-tribals in Tripura were cited. A suggestion was made to work out a strategy to deal with identity politics across the nation in a priority manner.

The opportunities for expansion of the organisation through work on NREGA and Tribal Forest Rights Act were underlined by quite a few delegates. Tripura comrade told the delegates that the Left Front government has so far distributed 1.6 lakh hectares of land among tribal families under this Act. Among the issues facing the peasantry that were raised in the course of discussions included: declining credit facilities; the dangers of corporate farming and penetration of MNCs into Indian agriculture; sale of spurious seeds and fertilisers; increasing efforts for privatisation of water and irrigation facilities; the problems of tenant farmers; proper rehabilitation of the displaced people due to projects/SEZs etc; largescale corruption in various schemes and packages of the government etc.

As for organisational matters, most delegates stressed the need for regular follow up after the struggles and campaigns in order to ensure consolidation as well as politicisation of members. The membership of AIKS presently stands at 2,26,32,584. Despite a hefty increase of 37,79,674 from the last conference in Nashik, it was pointed out that the three states of Bengal, Kerala and Tripura account for 28,40,947 of this increase in membership. Among other states that saw significant increase in membership (over one lakh)  included Rajasthan, Tamilnadu and Bihar. In many weaker states, fluctuation in membership continues to be a problem. The delegates also stressed the need for greater efforts to impart political education to the cadres through organising of classes and regional workshops.

K Varadharajan in his reply to the discussion stressed on the importance of conducting local-level struggles on issues instead of relying mainly on national-level calls. He cited how such struggles are possible on the demand for providing compensation due to sale of spurious seeds and fertilisers, or for availability of credit for small and marginal farmers. He wanted the focus to be on the poor and marginal peasants. He announced that a special meeting of the newly-elected AIKC would be held for identifying the issues to be taken up for struggles. A zonal workshop would be held this year for Hindi-speaking states. He sought the cooperation of states in strengthening of the all India centre.

 

COMMISSIONS

& RESOLUTIONS

The penultimate day of the conference saw the delegates breaking into commissions on four important issues.  Each commission saw presentation of a draft note by the author and discussion centred around that. For example, a total of 178 delegates attended the 'Commission on Land and Related Issues' held at a venue nearby the main conference venue. The draft note was presented by AIKC permanent invitee, Venkatesh Athreya, on which a total of 19 delegates presented their views, including some specific suggestions. Similarly there was a 'Commission on Seed Monopolies, Genetically Modified Crops and Bt Brinjal', draft note of which was placed by AIKS leader, Vijoo Krishnan. Another AIKC permanent invitee, V K Ramachandran, placed the draft note for the 'Commission on Public Investment, Rural Credit and Insurance' while Prasenjit Bose placed the draft note for the 'Commission on Agricultural Prices'. In the evening, the outcome of the discussions in the commissions were placed before the conference by the respective authors. These papers would be finalised by the newly elected CKC.

The conference passed resolutions on several important issues. Among them included one in defence of the struggle for democracy in West Bengal; against the FTA agreement with ASEAN; on untouchability and oppression of dalits; on implementation of Forest Rights Act; on food security and PDS; on women's issues etc.

 

CREDENTIALS

REPORT

A total of 720 delegates attended the conference, of whom women delegates numbered 56, constituting 7.89 per cent. Majority of delegates participated in land movement. There were two delegates who joined Kisan Sabha before 1947. Another fact was that delegates aged between 41 to 60 years formed a significant chunk, prompting the credentials committee convener, K Balakrishnan, to say that by next conference efforts must be made to bring in younger delegates. Also the need to promote women into leadership positions was also stressed.

S Ramachandran Pillai released a book in the conference, titled ‘Socio-Economic Surveys of Three Villages in Andhra Pradesh – A Study of Agrarian Relations’. This has been edited by V K Ramachandran, Vikas Rawal and Madhura Swaminathan and is an outcome of collaboration between the Foundation of Agrarian Studies and All India Kisan Sabha. Three villages in the three regions of Andhra Pradesh were chosen for this study and the first one was Ananthavaram village in Kollur mandal, Guntur district. The symbolic significance of this village is that it was one of the two villages surveyed by Comrade P Sundarayya and others in 1974. CPI(M) Andhra Pradesh state secretary B V Raghavulu in his foreword to the book underscored the ‘need for close collaboration between academics and activists in order to combine theoretical insights, scientific methods and empirical experience to arrive at an understanding that is, in turn, useful for mass mobilisation.’ Pillai also released a souvenir brought out by the reception committee containing several articles relating to agrarian issues.