People's Democracy

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


No. 51

December 19, 2010

Greetings to the AIKS (Windsor Place) Conference


On December 10, S Ramachandran Pillai, president of the All India Kisan Sabha (4, Ashoka Road), read out on behalf of his organisation the following message of greetings at the 28th national conference of the All India Kisan Sabha (Windsor Place), that took place at Aurangabad in Maharashtra.  


ON behalf of the All India Kisan Sabha (4 Ashoka Road, New Delhi), I greet all the comrades participating in the 28th national conference of the All India Kisan Sabha. I consider it a great privilege for me to attend this conference and to greet you all. I wish all success to the deliberations in the conference. We had held our 32nd all-India conference in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh in January this year. 


India is now facing an unprecedented agrarian crisis. Most of the sectors in agriculture and sections among the peasantry are affected by the deepening agrarian crisis. The poorer sections among the peasantry, especially the small and marginal farmers and agricultural labourers who constitute the vast majority of the rural population, are the worst sufferers. The most important aspect of the agrarian crisis is that agriculture is increasingly becoming an unviable venture for the bulk of the peasantry. Spiralling input prices, on the one hand, and highly volatile output prices influenced by international trends rather than by domestic output, on the other, is the main reason for this. Output prices no longer cover the cost of production in the case of a significant number of crops in many regions. The minimum support prices fixed by the central government are neither fair nor remunerative, and even the procurement mechanism is at best skeletal.


Another important feature of the present agrarian crisis is the deceleration in the agricultural growth rate and stagnation in agricultural production. The most disturbing feature is the rate of growth of foodgrain production is not picking up. Peasants’ suicides are continuing unabated. Poverty is spreading to newer sections and areas. Unemployment is growing. Pauperisation of the small and middle peasants is taking place at a faster pace. The number of workdays available to the workers and the wages of agricultural workers are declining. The indebtedness among the peasantry is growing. There is severe shrinkage of institutional credit facilities. The peasants and agricultural workers have no other option but to take loans from moneylenders at exorbitant rates of interest. The public distribution system is being dismantled. The intensity of the adverse effects of natural calamities is increasing year-by-year. Vast tracts of land have become uncultivable due to ecological changes. 


The present crisis in agriculture is the result of the nature of capitalist path of development pursued by the ruling classes since independence. The feudal and semi-feudal fetters on the productive forces of agriculture have not been broken. Instead of taking steps to eliminate imperialist influence on the economy, the ruling classes have compromised with them.  However, the agrarian policies pursued since independence have developed capitalist production relations in agriculture. These policies have benefited the rural rich comprising landlords, capitalist farmers, rich peasants and their allies. The post-independence period of capitalist development in India can be divided into two phases of capitalist development --- the state-sponsored phase of capitalist development from 1947 till 1990 and the post-liberalisation phase of capitalist development starting from 1991. Two factors --- both internal and external --- have contributed to the change from the state-sponsored phase of capitalist development to the liberalisation phase of capitalist development. The richer sections, who reaped benefits under the state-sponsored phase of capitalist development, expected that they would be able to garner more benefits under the liberalisation-globalisation phase of capitalist development. Making use of the present international situation, the imperialist countries are trying to control the world resources. They are making use of the international institutions such as IMF, World Bank and WTO for imposing conditions on the developing countries, that will facilitate the exploitation by multinational companies. That is the external factor which contributed to the introduction of liberalisation phase. 


The present UPA government is pursuing anti-peasant, anti-agriculture policies. The reduction in investment for agricultural development has slowed down employment generation in rural areas and decline in public investment in agriculture including irrigation, power, agricultural research and extension services. The fertiliser prices have been deregulated leading to steep increase in fertiliser prices and shortage of fertiliser in many areas. The fuel and power prices have increased leading to spiralling input costs in agriculture. The union government has introduced a bill in parliament to take away the birth right of the peasantry --- to produce, to preserve and to exchange seeds --- and to hand over this right to multinational companies and Indian corporates. Now the agricultural policies are determined by the multinational companies.  The Indo-US Knowledge Initiative agreement, which came into existence in 2005, is deciding the agricultural policies of the country. Representatives of MNCs, of Monsanto and Walmart are the members of the board of directors of the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative. They decide the policies of agricultural research and development. The central government has already signed free trade agreements with the ASEAN countries etc. The flow of agricultural commodities from these countries will cause disastrous effects on the life of the peasantry and agriculture.  Now the government is negotiating with European Union, Israel, Japan and many other countries for signing free trade agreements. This will have extremely adverse impact on the life of the peasantry and agriculture. The government of India is sacrificing the interests of the peasantry for ensuring profits for the big investors and corporate houses of India. Instead of encouraging and supporting peasant agriculture, the government of India is promoting corporate agriculture. Corporate agriculture cannot provide a way out of the agrarian crisis. 


The way out of the agrarian crisis can be found only in an alternative approach towards economic decision making in general and agriculture in particular. The alternative approach should aim to protect peasant agriculture from the catastrophic consequences of integration with global capitalism. Agriculture should be promoted through deliberate intervention by the state.  The alternative approach should focus on the conditions of life of the agriculture-dependent population and should approach the agrarian crisis not only in terms of deceleration in output growth per se but also in terms of the crisis of the peasantry and agricultural labourers. 


Peasant agriculture depends heavily on the support of the state for its survival and growth. The state should, therefore, make greater investments in irrigation, electricity, science and technology, rural development and social sectors like health and education in rural areas. The state also should actively intervene to provide debt relief measures, provide interest subvention to ensure institutional credit at low rates of interest, extension services and good quality inputs at affordable prices. Most importantly, the state should ensure remunerative prices for agricultural crops by expanding procurement operations on the basis of minimum support price to all regions and crops backed by an appropriate tariff policy. Without ensuring remunerative prices, it is not possible either to increase agricultural production or to make Indian agriculture internationally competitive. Increasing foodgrain production should be prioritised both by bringing more acreage under food production as well as productivity enhancements through scientific and technological developments. The FCI should be strengthened and universal public distribution system should be restored. It is also necessary to take appropriate measures for value addition and diversification in agriculture. 


Agriculture has to be modernised to reduce the drudgery of peasant life and to make it an attractive occupation for the younger generation. The bound levels of custom tariffs on agricultural goods in the WTO should not be further reduced. Pressure from the developed countries for greater market access for their agri-business companies should be withstood firmly. The unfinished task of land reforms in most states should be taken ahead by breaking land monopoly vesting ceiling surplus land and redistribution of land among the landless households.


The question of land acquisition and conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural use has been a matter of political as well as intellectual debate in recent times. The present Land Acquisition Act has to be amended appropriately. This has to be done by properly defining “public purpose” and making the “eminent domain” accountable and open to public scrutiny. 


A national rehabilitation legislation should be passed, so displaced people are legally entitled to a share of the development that causes displacement. Conversion of agricultural land for urbanisation or industrialisation, if unavoidable, should be done in a planned manner in order to prevent the reckless real estate development and land speculation. For a developing country like India, development of agriculture and industrialisation are both essential. There is no justification in pitting one against the other. Planned, balanced and harmonious development of agriculture and industry is essential for employment generation and economic development.


In order to achieve the above mentioned alternative policies, powerful united struggles of the peasantry, agricultural workers and workers are necessary.


The 32nd conference of the All India Kisan Sabha (4 Ashoka Road), held at Guntur in January this year, discussed these issues and decided to build united struggles with the All India Kisan Sabha (Windsor Place) and other peasant organisations. The present situations demands powerful united movements of the peasantry. Both our organisations should strive to build unity with the broadest possible sections and emerge as the true voice of the struggling peasantry. I, once again, greet you all and wish all success to the 28th national conference.