People's Democracy

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


No. 08

February 21, 2010




AIAWU Observes Anti-Hunger Day Statewide


THE country is reeling under the price rise which has now risen to 18 per cent at present. It has hit agricultural labour the hardest. They have got less work than before with large areas of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh being hit by severe drought. Despite this, the government has failed to give jobs and food either as relief or under Mahatma Gandhi Rural employment Guarantee Act (MGREGA). Unable to find work or pay the high prices for food, they have been forced to rise up in struggle for the implementation of the MGREGA and for rooting our corruption by the panchayats, block officials and quota holders.

On February 10, UP witnessed dharnas in 16 districts, of which Mirzapur with 2500 present was outstanding. In Koraon (Allahabad), Deoria and Azamgarh, between 600 and 700 people participated in the dharnas. Other districts included Saharanpur, Etah, Bareilly, Muzaffarnagar and Mathura in the West and Bhadoi, Varanasi, Basti and Chandauli in the East.

The action was planned after the Lucknow dalit rights convention in November last year and in response to the call from the central working committee of the All India Agricultural workers Union (AIAWU) that met at Mumbai on January 2 and 3.

The central working committee had noted how India had fallen to the 68th rank among 122 countries on the international food index while it ranked 66th in 2007-08. The grain available per person per day now is 50 grams less than the amount necessary to live. This is not only because of natural calamities but on account of the callous policies being pursued by the second UPA government. Despite the fact that 299 district in 13 states were declared drought hit, nothing was done to either provide immediate help in terms of electricity for running tube wells, free inputs like fertilisers, seeds and capital to ensure planting and save the jobs of workers or even to revamp the public distribution system. On the contrary, states like Tripura, Kerala and West Bengal had their quotas reduced when it is well known they are running an effective rationing system to control the prices. Moreover, the removal of quantitative restrictions and the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement have further depressed the prices of plantation products.

Further, a new food security act was touted, giving hoarders the message that BPL cards would be further reduced, the quantity of grain too would be cut down from 35 kg to 25 kg and the APL rations would be discontinued, making it certain that prices would rise. And they did, rising to an unprecedented 19 per cent in the week ending December 19, 2009. At the same time, sugar export is being allowed while prices are rising at home and the proper quantity of grain is not being provided for the PDS, despite there being enough stocks, which the government later sold in the open market rather than to ration card holders. Nor was any serious attempt made to stop speculation through the futures trading in the necessaries of life, allowing it to further fuel the price rise which threatens to go above 25 per cent if it is not checked by administrative measure.

It is the acts of commission and omission by the government which have in fact fuelled the price rise. Rice that was selling of Rs 19 per kg in the first half of 2009, now sells at Rs 25. Wheat price has gone up from Rs 15 to 20, tur dal from Rs 80 to 90, sugar from Rs 30 to 45, while potatoes and vegetables are sell at anywhere between Rs 15 and Rs 30 per kg. Much of this had happened in the last five months or so. Hoarders have been given the message that the UPA without Left support has thrown the people into their hands to loot at will. Organisations like the AIAWU, that represent the poorest and the most oppressed, must taken up this as a challenge and confront the government on the issue of food. Hoarders must be checked, the PDS must be freed from corruption, and MGREGA must be implemented on a war footing.

In these conditions, the following demands have been put forward:

(1) A comprehensive PDS must be reintroduced, scrapping the APL and BPL categories.

(2) Until this is done, all agricultural workers be given BPL cards automatically and the quota system for BPL must be scrapped.

(3) All BPL card holders must get 35 kg of grain per person at Rs 2 per kg under Antodaya, as is being done at present in 12 states in the country.

(4) Free rations for drought and flood hit people by the state government concerned.

(5) Futures trading in food grains and necessaries of life must be stopped.

(6) Farmers should be given adequate electricity, subsidised inputs and credit at 4 per cent, as the government gifts industry with.

(7) All debts of agricultural labour must be cancelled.

(8) A comprehensive central legislation for agricultural labour must be passed forthwith to ensure adequate welfare and proper working conditions for them.

(9) The central government must provide a proportional amount of grain to the states to ensure food to the people.

(10) Implementation of the Forest Rights Act in all districts of UP, notably Allahabad and Saharanpur, like in Mirzapur and Sonbhadra.

(11) ST status must be given to the Kols of UP, like those in MP and Chhattisgarh.

The meetings in different districts were addressed by AIAWU all-India joint secretary Suneet Chopra, state president Ambika Prasad Mishra, state secretary Brij Lala Bharti, state vice presidents Ram Kripal (ex-MLA) and Jai Lal Saroj, state joint secretaries Shanti Prakash and Zia Lal, and state working committee members Shiv Kumar, Suresh Prasad, Dhirendra Pratap Mishra and Satish Kumar, among others.

This is the first step of a movement that will now be taken up at the village level to ensure that these demands are met locally and that help reaches the people who most need it.