(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)
March 20, 2011
Thousands of Peasants
March to Parliament
THOUSANDS of peasants from across the country marched to the parliament on March 11, 2011 under the banner of the All India Kisan Sabha, to highlight the agrarian crisis and the pressing problems faced by the peasantry. The central slogan of the march – “Protect Our Land, Seeds and Peasant Agriculture” –attracted a large number of poor peasants from all over the country. The march started from Ramlila Maidan and culminated with a massive meeting at the Parliament Street. The meeting was addressed among others by the AIKS president S Ramachandran Pillai, general secretary, K Varadha Rajan, Basudeb Acharia, MP and Tapan Sen, MP.
Addressing the massive meeting, the Kisan Sabha leadership strongly criticised the recent union budget for being insensitive to the plight of the peasantry. The cut in fertiliser subsidies by 5000 crore rupees and decontrol of fertiliser prices will raise input costs. The proposal to replace fertiliser subsidies with direct cash transfers is farcical since most poor peasants who use fertiliser are not included in the BPL list. The cut in food subsidy in the backdrop of rising food prices also shows the lack of seriousness of the UPA-II government in enacting a meaningful food security legislation. The central plan outlay on agriculture and rural development has completely stagnated in this budget, exposing the lack of political will in enhancing public investment in agriculture and generating employment and asset creation in the rural areas. All these measures go against the recommendations of the National Farmers’ Commission.
The Kisan Sabha leadership accused the government of hurting the interests of silk cultivators by drastically cutting basic customs duty on raw silk in the budget, from 30 per cent to 5 per cent. The non-transparent negotiations on the FTA with the EU also showed how the interests of the peasants and fishworkers are being bartered away. The draft texts of the EU-India FTA must be shared with the people and discussed in the parliament.
The AIKS leaders demanded amendments to the antiquated Land Acquisition Act of 1894 without further delay, along with an appropriate legislation on rehabilitation and resettlement. The lack of proper legislation is leading to ruthless land grab and alienation of peasant land. The Kisan Sabha has proposed several amendments to the Land Acquisition Act to ensure fair compensation and profit sharing with land losers, which must be incorporated.
The AIKS leadership also demanded that the Seed Bill must include amendments to safeguard the seed rights of the peasantry. Any effort to enact the provisions which favour MNCs like Monsanto will be strongly resisted.
Thousands of peasants who had gathered in the rally resolved to intensify the struggles against the anti-peasant neoliberal policies of the UPA-II government and fight to fulfill the demands put forward by the All India Kisan Sabha.
CHARTER OF DEMANDS
1. Implement land reforms; protect rights of sharecroppers & 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. Enact pro-farmer rehabilitation & resettlement bill.
3. Implement effectively the Tribal Forest Rights Act;
4. Protect farmers’ right to seed; 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. Stop forward trading in all the food grains and consumer goods.
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 and all villages. Include frost in the list of natural calamities.
12. Expand and provide institutional credit to farmers at low interest rates, of not more than 4 per cent.
13. Stringently regulate money lenders 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/day under MNREGA; enact comprehensive central legislation to protect rights of agricultural workers.
17. Withdraw the decision to allow duty free import of raw silk as well as the decision to cut the import duties from 30 per cent to 5 per cent.
18. Implement a national soil amelioration and replenishment programme to improve soil condition.
19. Take effective steps to protect crops from wild animal menace and compensate farmers appropriately for losses suffered.
20. Take stern measures to control and eradicate corruption in public life.