People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXIV

No. 15

April 11, 2010

AIAWU Gears up for Seventh All India Conference

 

Hannan Mollah

 

MEETING at Agartala, Tripura, on March 27 and 28, the central working committee of the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) condoled the demise of Comrades Jyoti Basu, Ramnarayan Goswami, W R Varada Rajan, Kashmir Singh (Punjab) and Rajesh (Keraka). It remembered the greet contribution Comrade Jyoti Basu had made to the development of Left, democratic and working class movement in the country.

AIAWU president P Ramaiya presided ever the CEC meeting which 60 members from all states attended.

AIAWU general secretary A Vijayaraghavan placed his report, taking note of the crisis that is affecting every section of the rural masses adversely. The contribution of agriculture to the national GDP has come down from nearly half to 15.07 per cent; in the same period public investment in agriculture has come down to a third. This has severely affected employment and output, leading to suicide by over two lakh farmers and agricultural workers in the last one decade. Deprived of work, some 33 lakh petty owners of land are forced to sell out land and join the rural unemployed.

The effects of agrarian crisis are most severe on agricultural labourers and have to be counted with immediate effect. Not only do they not have land today; even the land for housesite is being diverted to other uses. Also, there is a decline in the number of workdays available in agriculture, which is their only means of livelihood. In 1991 they could get 100 days of work a year on a farm; today they get work for only 57 days or less while their number has grown from 7.4 crore to 10.7 crores in the same period. They do not have alternative employment. As a result, rural unemployment has grown from 5.3 to 9.3 per cent. Many were forced to migrate; 27.3 per cent of the migrants were cultivators and 28.2 per cent were agricultural labour, according to the government’s own figures. This has led to the wages of agricultural workers either remaining stagnant or falling over the last decade or so. Although the AIAWU has taken up wage struggle in most states consistently, notably in Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamilnadu, Tripura and Punjab, we should not lose sight of their need in the coming days.

So the CWC meeting expressed its serious concern over the plight of nearly half of the rural masses and has decided to work for an alternative plan of employment, for assets necessary to preserve their lives and livelihood, and for the worker peasant alliance to push forward an agenda of sustainable economic development which the present government at the centre and in many state seem not to care about.

Even in the last union budget, which followed in the wake of a severe drought in the many parts of country and floods in other parts, affecting half of the districts in the country, we saw the food subsidy slashed by Rs 424 crore. The fertiliser subsidy has been reduced by Rs 3000 crore, even after 10 per cent increase of urea price, and the rural development expenditure is down to an all time low of 3.7 per cent this year, compounding the crisis.

The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), which started out with a budget of Rs 54 crore per district, is now floundering at about Rs 26 crore per district. Most of the states in the country have failed to provided even 37 days of work a year. In this regard, the CWC lauded Tripura’s performance as it provides one of the best examples of reaching the benefits of the scheme to our hard-pressed rural people. In many panchayats in Tripura, agricultural workers got 100 days of work. The AIAWU took up this matter in various states. In Andhra Pradesh, it organised movements in many districts; Tamilnadu too did good work in this regard after Tripura and Kerala.

The CWC meeting expressed serious concern over the unprecedented price rise of all essential commodities. At a time when food inflation has risen to nearly 18 per cent and there appears to be no attempts by the government to arrest this trend, the meeting appreciated the role of Kerala government in raising the quota system for the below-poverty-line (BPL) people, providing rice at Rs 2 per kg to all those who need it. The meeting criticised the central government for not taking any imitative to strengthen and expand the public distribution system (PDS) but comprising to abolish it and throw people at the mercy of the market forces. Instead of providing food from its huge buffer stock through the PDS, it has released food at subsidised rate to private traders who are making more profit by hording and creating unnatural scarcity instead of lowering the prices. The case of sugar price is a pointer.

Besides the above economic aspects of rural poor, the meeting expressed its solidarity with government of West Bengal which is facing all out from all reactionary forces and also battling to self styled Maoist menace creating panic among rural masses with shameless support from the elements who are past of the UPA government. It is to the credit of West Bengal government that the has not deteriorated in Bengal as in Jharkhand and Chhatisgarh.

In this context, the meeting reviewed the organisational situation. The activists of our union has increased to some extent. During last 6th All India conference union activities were spread in 177 district of 12 states. During last three years, the union reached the rural masses of 198 districts of those 12 states. The membership also increased and it will is expected to reach 5 million in this current year.

The 7th All India conference will be held from July 17 to 19, 2010 at Trichipally district of Tamilnadu. The preparation is in full swing. Before that all state level conference will be completed by the month of June. Lower level conference are going on in different state. The meeting discussed the perspective of the organisation to be decided in the seventh conference in the serious condition of crisis our agrarian economic in engulfed today.

In these conditions, this is no alternative to relentless struggles until the forces then rule the country to day have to change their policies. They will not do so easily. So we call upon all agricultural workers to join the left, in the massive “Jail Bharo” movement being launched on April 8. We have no other alternative but to fight for work, food and self-respect. And the union had decided to through itself into independent and joint struggles under the leadership of our organisation in all states in the country.