People's Democracy

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


No. 26

July 01, 2012

AIAWU Plans Struggles to Fight Corruption


Suneet Chopra


HELD at Kanyakumari in Tamilnadu on June 23 and 24, 2012, the General Council meeting of the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) was attended by 86 leaders of agricultural workers from 13 states. The AIAWU represents a membership of 50,54,502, which is what makes it the biggest organisation of the most oppressed and exploited section of the Indian people.




The meeting took place at a time when the country is facing a serious crisis of economic and political credibility. Economically speaking, the rate of GDP growth has come down from 9.2 per cent to only 5.3 per cent in January to March 2012. In the same period, the growth in the manufacturing sector has come down to 2.5 per cent from 7.6 per cent last year. In agriculture, the growth is down from seven per cent last year to 2.8 per cent this year, while the mining sector has slumped from five per cent last year to – 0.9 per cent this year. At the same time, prices have increased from 7.7 per cent in January to 10.4 per cent in April this year.


Thus we are squarely facing the worst stagnation in growth and uncontrolled inflation for the first time in nine years. Moreover, the value of the rupee has fallen by well over 15 per cent in comparison to the US dollar in the last few months; this is further fuelling the inflation menace. Already, in comparison to May 2011, the prices of vegetables have gone up 26.59 per cent, milk by 13.7 per cent, and pan and tobacco by 10.17 per cent.  Considering that this has been going on for over three years, the prices of foodstuffs are more or less double or triple of what they were when this round of inflation began.


In all this, however, the government has either behaved like an uninterested bystander or itself fuelled the price rise by raising the prices of fuel, electricity etc and by cutting down subsidies on even fertiliser and foodgrains. This has driven the people to starvation while grains are rotting in FCI godowns or in the open air.


The rural masses and people working in agriculture are the worst sufferers. According to a recent survey of people below the average monthly expenditure, those living below the poverty line in rural India are 64.47 per cent and in urban areas 66.7 per cent. This is a matter of concern, but the governments at the centre and in most states are blind to this situation. On the other hand, the central government has provided tax exemptions of Rs 5.29 lakh crore to the corporate sector, and since 2004, the total tax foregone has been Rs 26 lakh crore. Still, these very pampered classes are looting funds and assets and are asking for more. The growing stock of bad debts to be borne by the public sector banks are proof enough of this trend. This robbery of the state exchequer, public property and assets of the poor has to be stopped. If the government refuses to do so, mass movements must be led by mass organisations to ensure this.




Amid the crushing poverty of the rural landless, units of the AIAWU have been consistently struggling for work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and for minimum wages. Their success over the years has resulted in a rise in wages under the MGNREGA in most states, notably in Karnataka, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Tripura, Haryana and Punjab. But the prices of foodgrains have moved up still faster and so we are demanding Rs 250 per day and work for 200 days, instead of the 100 days as is the provision of the act at present. We are linking this struggle with the demand for provision of job cards to all who apply for them, prompt call for work, proper and timely wages and regular social audits in order to ensure that corruption does not take place. Without adequate wages, workers will have to starve in the case of drought and floods in different parts of the country. To prevent that contingency, the government needs to fill up the serious gaps that exist in the provision of work and timely wages.


After the 1990s, since the large scale adoption of liberalisation and privatisation policies, it was observed that landlessness is on the rise and the governments throughout the country are adopting a process of reversing the land reforms and even nullifying the meagre benefits that accrued to the poor through the earlier land reform policies. The data of the 11th five year plan show disparities even in landholdings across various caste categories, and particularly the landlessness among the scheduled castes. Even after 60 years of several welfare schemes, land redistribution programmes and reform legislations, a big majority of the agricultural labourers remained landless and continued to be landless labourers for generations. The AIAWU therefore proposes launch of campaigns and struggles on the issue of land rights for dalits on all land that is set apart for them, house-sites for all and small holdings for all those without land.


Atrocities against dalits are on an increase in a big part of the country. Issues like untouchability, evictions of dalits from the land which they have inhabited traditionally, grant to them of pattas without actual possession, their eviction from their farmlands, physical violence, rape and murder, police atrocities, arbitrary arrests and imprisonments are daily occurrences. These must be prevented at all cost, as they represent attacks on the democratic rights of the rural poor by the exploiting classes who are intensifying their oppression against those who lack power and protection. The units of the AIAWU need to be constantly vigilant and fight back these onslaughts.




Leaders from different states spoke of growing poverty, joblessness, collapse of the public distribution system (PDS) and rampant corruption in all walks of governance. In these conditions the only path left open to the rural masses is to organise against and resist their further deprivation and degradation. With the understanding that the situation in different parts of the country is different, the AIAWU has given a call to defend the people in their villages by organising them to fight on local demands in the months of June and July. The thrust of these struggles is to ensure that people learn from their experience that organised struggle can lead to ending some of their most immediate problems.


The month of August will be concerned with launching broad district and state level campaigns for work, a living wage, a properly functioning PDS, house-sites, land, health and educational facilities, equal wages for equal work, and against atrocities on dalits and tribals.


On August 23, in every state where the union has its unit, it will hold militant mass actions to highlight the basic demands of work, food, land, self-respect and passage of a comprehensive central legislation for agricultural labour. This will be followed up by a joint all-India convention on agricultural workers’ demands, in cooperation with like-minded organisations of agricultural workers, in November to be followed up by a joint movement of agricultural workers and peasants, aimed to force the state and central governments to change their policies from those contributing to the crisis in agriculture and the miseries that go with it to those aiming at resolving the crisis and reducing its worst impact on the lives of the rural masses. Nothing less will do as the people have no choice but to struggle or die.