People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXV

No. 07

February 13, 2011

 

AIKS MARCH TO PARLIAMENT

 

Call to Save Peasantry, Agriculture

 

HAVING called for a massive March to Parliament on February 11 with the call to save the Indian agriculture and Indian peasantry, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has noted that the agrarian crisis has been further intensified after the Congress-led UPA came to power for the second time. The UPA governmentís policies have led to an exorbitant increase in costs of agricultural inputs and unremunerative prices for the farmersí produce. The decontrol of fertiliser prices and frequent increase in prices of petrol and diesel as well as freight charges by the railways has added to the distress of the peasantry and the common people. The shrinking of institutional credit to the peasantry and the resultant dependence on moneylenders, traders and other informal sources has led to increased indebtedness. Landlessness is also increasing in the rural countryside. Farmersí suicides are continuing unabated. An estimated 2,16,500 farmers have committed suicide since 1997, and 17,368 in the year 2009 alone. On the whole, agriculture is increasingly becoming unviable. The government is going ahead with a series of Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) without any transparent discussions in parliament or with state governments, and putting the peasantry into peril. Increasingly, the multinational corporations (MNCs) are gaining a stronghold at the expense of the peasants and rural poor due to the governmentís policies. High inflation and sky-rocketing prices of essential commodities, food grains and the systematic dismantling of the public distribution system (PDS) have also pushed millions into a situation of extreme hunger. The new phenomena of profit seeking micro-finance companies being given an unregulated access in rural areas has seen them charge extremely high interest rates, increasing the distress for the rural poor.

 

Through a statement issued by its president S Ramachandran Pillai and general secretary K Varadha Rajan on February 8, the AIKS has taken note of the fact that land ceiling laws are being diluted and land reforms are being reversed. Land acquisition has emerged as a major issue in different states and large scale discontent is simmering in many regions where unjust acquisitions are happening. Indian as well as foreign companies are purchasing land in cities and rural areas for real estate purpose and indulging in speculative activity. Land acquired in the name of special economic zones (SEZs) and industrialisation is often at unfair terms and often misused for real estate purposes.  The Congress-led UPA government is not passing the Land Acquisition Act Amendment Bill and the Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill, and is refusing to incorporate the pro-people suggestions of the standing committee as well as Kisan Sabha.

 

The Seed Bill, in its present form, seriously compromises the birthright of the farmers to grow, sow, re-sow, save, use, exchange, share or sell their farm seeds and planting material. Regulation of prices is an important issue as seed is one of the most important agricultural inputs, and its exorbitant costs are leading the farmers into distress. The Seed Bill has no provision for the regulation of prices and royalty. Seed monopolies get a free hand to fix prices. Predatory and monopolistic pricing is not stopped.

 

Predatory agribusinesses like Monsanto and others, which are members on the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture, are determining the nature of research in the country as well as influencing policy decisions. These agribusinesses are being given a free hand in agricultural extension and development of new varieties of crops including GM crops. The private sector is only interested in their sole drive for maximising profits and will not bother about stringent safety measures. The Kisan Sabha is not opposed to technological advances in agriculture that will help increase productivity as well as farm incomes. Such research and development must be done by the public sector and no introduction of GM crops should be done without ensuring bio-safety and safety for human beings through stringent tests. The need for production enhancing techniques and the possibility of developing flood-resistant, drought-resistant, salinity resistant crops should be explored by the public sector.

 

It was in such a dire situation that the All India Kisan Council (AIKC) of the AIKS met at Kolkata from December 28 to 30, 2010, and decided to further intensify struggles against the anti-peasant policies. It decided to organise a massive March to Parliament on March 11, 2011 on certain demands of the peasantry and to protest against the policies responsible for the agrarian crisis.

 

The demands are as below.

 

1) Implement land reforms; protect rights of sharecroppers and tenants; ensure house-sites to the landless.

2) Amend the Land Acquisition Act of 1894; include pro-farmer proposals of AIKS; stop unjust land acquisition. pass a pro-farmer Rehabilitation & Resettlement Bill.

3) Implement effectively the Forest Rights Act;

4) Protect the farmersí birthright on seeds; accept AIKS amendments to Seed Bill; ensure public sector development & dissemination of affordable quality seeds; fix prices and royalty of seeds.

5) Ensure remunerative prices for all the crops including sugarcane and cotton and assured public procurement everywhere.

6) Ensure remunerative prices for minor forest produce and coarse cereals.

7) Stop entering into unequal free trade agreements.

8) Take stern measures to control rising prices. Ensure adequate food for all at affordable rates through universal PDS.

9) Stop MNC intervention in extension, agricultural research and input supply.

10) Stop decontrol of fertiliser industry; ensure fertilisers at affordable rates.

11) Implement comprehensive crop insurance scheme covering all crops & all villages; include frost in the list of natural calamities.

12) Expand and provide institutional credit to farmers at low interest rates, not more than 4 per cent.

13) Stringently regulate moneylenders and micro-finance companies.

14) Implement all the pro-farmer recommendations of National Commission for Farmers.

15) Withdraw unjust hike in petrol and diesel prices.

16) Ensure 200 days of work at Rs.200 per Day under MNREGA; implement comprehensive legislation to protect rights of agricultural workers.

17) Implement a national soil amelioration and replenishment programme to improve soil condition.

18) Take stern measures to control and eradicate corruption in public life.

 

The AIKS has asked all its state units (except those where assembly elections are to be held in the coming months) to make plans to ensure maximum mobilisation and to make the Parliament March a huge success.

 

The organisation has also asked its state units to actively work in cooperation with other mass organisations to make a success of the joint demonstration of all the central trade unions before parliament on February 23, 2011, against price rise, unemployment and privatization and also demanding relief to the workers of unorganised sector. All units have been told to participate actively in local solidarity actions.