People's Democracy

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


No. 49

December 05, 2010


Agricultural Labour’s Wake up Call for UPA Govt on Nov 30


WHILE the central government admits that the 8.9 per cent growth registered in the economy, with agriculture contributing 4.4 per cent of it, is a reflection of the contribution of the agricultural sector to the growth of our country’s economy, they thank the monsoon for this success and not the farmers and agricultural labourers who have sweated out this contribution  with hunger, unemployment and crushing debt staring them in the face because of this government’s economic policies that support scamsters  and exploit workers and small producers.


The monsoon saw a late arrival and uneven rains that plunged some areas into drought and others into floods, ruining thousands of farmers. The government failed to respond. It did not provide adequate electricity which could have provided water from tube-wells and saved thousands of acres of already planted land. But it refused to take action in keeping with its determination to starve the peasantry and agricultural labour, force them into debt to money-lenders and encourage them to sell their small-holdings that constitute over  60 per cent of the total  farmland and get corporates, both Indian and foreign, to buy them out.


To ensure that they do so successfully, the government has reduced investment in rural development by two-thirds, cut down electricity being distributed in rural areas from over 28 per cent in 1991-02 to barely over 20 per cent now, the gross reduction of subsidies for inputs, procurement and the PDS. To add to it, the government was happy to provide an over five lakh crores of rupees tax reduction to the rich in 2009-10 alone, not to speak of the lakhs of crores  of the tax-payer’s money they have stolen through their scams on a scale unheard of before. That this has led to over two lakh  farmers committing suicide and some 20,000 agricultural labourers dying of hunger in the last eight years is of no concern to the government in its hurry to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. To make this criminal task even more painful to the poor, the government had raised the prices of diesel, petrol and kerosene and now plans to raise the prices of grain through the PDS and reduce the number of BPL beneficiaries by the so-called food security act. This can only help to increase prices which are already beyond what the people can bear even further. This will not be tolerated by the people as was evident from slogans the demonstrators raised calling  on Manmohan Singh to deliver or resign.


This shameless policy of allowing the Indian and foreign corporate rich to corner even the livelihood of over eighty crore fellow-citizens and reduce them to wage labour and migrant workers with no law to protect them, to ensure human working conditions, minimum wages, an assured food supply and basic human rights, will no longer be tolerated. This was evident from the thousands of agricultural labourers who came to Delhi largely from the states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar and Rajasthan where agricultural labour suffer incredible hardship that has reduced the majority of agricultural labour to a level even below that of animals under successive governments that have virtually driven them to forced labour to survive. But the All India Agricultural Workers’ Union’s rally on Novermber 30, 2010 was a reminder that this would not be allowed to go on unchecked. While the rallyists were mainly from Northern states, the rally was attended by agricultural labour leaders from all parts of the country.


The rally was addressed by the AIAWU president, P Ramayya (ex-MLA, Andhra Pradesh); A Vijayaraghavan, general secretary (ex-MP from Kerala), Hannan Mollah, joint secretary(ex-MP, West Bengal), Kumar Shiralkar, joint secretary(Maharashtra), Sarangdhar Paswan, vice president(Bihar), Bhanu Lal Saha, vice president(deputy speaker of the Tripura assembly) Suneet Chopra, joint secretary. (centre) who placed the memorandum before the rally to be approved, and Subhashini Ali (ex-MP from Uttar Pradesh).


The rally also received powerful support from AIDWA patron, Brinda Karat(MP), CITU general secretary Tapan Sen (MP) and AIKS joint secretary, N K Shukla. A number of state secretaries from different parts of the country, M V Govindan Master(Kerala), Babul Bhadra(Tripura), B Venkat(Andhra Pradesh), G Mani(Tamilnadu), Nityanand Swami(Karnataka), Sisir Hui(Orissa), Prakash Choudhary(Maharashtra), Bhuramal Swami(Rajasthan), Gurmesh Singh(Punjab) Ram Avtar(Haryana), Brijlal Bharti(Uttar Pradesh) and Bhola Prasad Diwakar(Bihar), also attended the rally with other office-bearers from their states.


This rally should serve as a reminder to the central government that its infamous polices must be changed, otherwise a massive countrywide movement on issues of the central government’s nefarious attempts to violate the minimum wages act and even the provisions of the MNREGA, the failure to ensure minimum wages; the demand for a universal PDS with a minimum of 35 kilograms of grain at rupees two per kilo to  everyone as well as provision for all necessaries of life as before; and the immediate passage of the comprehensive central legislation for agricultural labour will take place. The rally voted  en masse  to implement the demands in the memorandum and the speakers at the rally inspired the rallyists to go back and throw themselves into struggles for a policy change. The CITU invited the union to support the February 23 rally of the working class in Delhi and swell its ranks. The struggle of agricultural labour for the proper implementation of MNREGA, house-sites, wages, against atrocities on dalits, adivasis and women, and for comprehensive central legislation for agricultural labour can no longer wait because of the appalling conditions prevailing all over the rural areas, making life impossible for agricultural labour. The speakers warned the rallyists that they ought not to expect the government to listen to their demands except under pressure of struggle. So they should prepare for broad-based struggles of agricultural labour and peasants and ensure their demands are conceded.


A delegation of the office bearers of the Union, consisting of P Ramayya, A Vijayaraghavan, Hannan Mollah, Kumar Shiralkar and Suneet Chopra, met the minister of state, Agatha Sangma and presented the memorandum to her to let the ministry know the views of the poorest and most oppressed on December 1.


THE All India Agricultural Workers’ Union is an organisation working among the agricultural workers and has a membership of more than 48 lakh covering 14 states in India. Our Union persistently endeavours to mobilise agricultural workers and rural poor on their various issues and problems. Since the UPA  government passed the MGNREGA, the AIAWU had tried to create an awareness campaign and took the lead and initiative for its proper implementation. But our experience shows that there are many difficulties and lacunae in MGNREGA implementation.


­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­On January 1, 2009, the central government, misusing the provision under section 6 (1) of the Act, has started reducing wages to well below the minimum. This is in complete disregard to the provisions in the original Act that mentions clearly that minimum wages under NREGA are to be synchronised with the minimum wages for the agricultural workers as per the 1948 Minimum Wages Act. The existing statutory minimum wages for agricultural work in various states are more than Rs 100 per day. Thus the unjust amendment and notifications are in contravention to the main objective of the Act. On the backdrop of the ever escalating price rise, wage rate is the most important factor in the success of this pro-people Act.


It is urgently required to redress such shortcomings so that the basic spirit of the objectives of this unprecedented Act is brought in practice and the real benefits reach  the most needy rural working masses.


With this intent, on behalf of AIAWU we are proposing the following demands:

§                    At least 150 days ensured work per year with the guarantee of Rs 200 per day as minimum wages.

§                    Recalculate the SORs on the basis of work time motion study observing the guidelines of the Act in its spirit of objectives.

§                    The budgetary allocation for NREGA should be increased to at least Rs 160000 crores.

§                    Ensure the flexibility of works under NREGA as per the genuine demands from the rural workers to create maximum verities of jobs to fulfill the needs of the local people encompassing various government sponsored schemes.

§                    The linking of NREGA with FRA in tribal areas and the implementation of land reform  must be assured undoing the high handedness of the forest department and the landlords.

§                    Recruit representatives of Agricultural Workers Union in the NREGA monitoring committees at all levels from tehsil to the centre.

§                    Amend the Act to punish the officers/employees/gram pradhans under criminal acts who do not observe the provisions of NREGA and its guidelines regarding timely employment, minimum wages, unemployment allowance, non-maintenance of records and involvement in corrupt malpractices in collusion with contractors and post/bank officers. 

§                    Rescind the illegal notification issued by the central ministry that violates  the spirit of the legislation.

§                    Ensure that SCs, STs and women get their due in the implementation of this scheme.

§                    To ensure better implementation of the Act, the PDS must be strengthened and universalised with the provision of at least 35 kilograms of food grains at Antyodaya rates along with other essential commodities.

§                    A comprehensive central legislation for agricultural labour that has been drafted as far back as 1980 must be passed immediately.


 We request you to look into these vital demands and do the needful to fulfil them urgently.