People's Democracy

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


No. 39

September 30, 2012



AIKS Organises State Workshop &

 First Krishna Khopkar Memorial Lecture


Kisan Gujar


THE Maharashtra state workshop of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) that was held on September 15-16, 2012 at Nashik was attended by 260 delegates from 19 districts of the state. It was inaugurated by Dr R Ramakumar, Professor of Economics at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai, while the concluding speeches were delivered by AIKS CKC member Dr Ashok Dhawale and AIKS state president J P Gavit, ex-MLA.


The highlight of this workshop was the First Krishna Khopkar Memorial Lecture that was delivered in the evening of September 15 by Dr V K Ramachandran, Professor of Economics at the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. September 15 was the second death anniversary of Comrade Krishna Khopkar, who was one of the leading figures in the Left peasant movement of Maharashtra.




The workshop began with the flag-hoisting by the senior most AIKS state vice president, L B Dhangar, who is still very active at 85 years of age.  Kisan Gujar placed the condolence resolution in which homage was paid to Captain Laxmi Sehgal, Dipankar Mukherjee, progressive actor A K Hangal, and AIKS leaders Nathu Ozare, Savji Dhanare, Mahadu Dumada and martyr Mathi Ozare.

In his inaugural address, Dr R Ramakumar said that Maharashtra is a state with a rich history of struggles by peasants and agricultural labourers against landlords, traders and moneylenders. The AIKS has been in the forefront of some of these struggles in the state. The most successful component of these struggles has been in the adivasi-dominated areas of the state, such as parts of Thane and Nashik districts. As a result, traditionally, the AIKS and the Left has been politically and electorally strong in these districts. While there is a need to consolidate these political gains of the AIKS in the adivasi belts of Thane and Nashik, there is also a pressing need to expand the AIKS membership outside these regions. In other words, the AIKS has to urgently identify the issues and demands of peasants outside the adivasi belt.

The inaugural address was divided into two sections. The first section concerned itself with historical problems of agrarian transformation in Maharashtra. The second question concerned itself with new and more recent challenges of globalisation and liberalisation of agriculture.

First, the overall record of implementation of land reforms in the state of Maharashtra is one of failure. The only component of land reforms that has been implemented with limited success is the tenancy reforms of the 1950s. While one section of tenants received ownership rights through tenancy reforms, a large number of tenants were also evicted by the landlords, who took back their land for “personal cultivation”, either by the force of law or through physical force. Till September 2006, only about 14.9 lakh tenants were conferred ownership rights (or rights protected) across Maharashtra. The area that accrued to these tenants accounted for only 42.9 lakh acres, or 9.9 per cent of the total net sown area in the state.

If tenancy reforms had only limited success, the record of distributing ceiling surplus land has been a total sham. As on September 2006, only 1.7 per cent of the net sown area in the state has been declared surplus. It has to be one important task of the AIKS to identify these lands and bring them to the notice of the government. Further, of all the land declared surplus, 76,914 acres is yet to be taken over. The AIKS has to demand for a complete takeover of surplus land as soon as possible.

In sum, said Dr Ramakumar, tenancy reforms and redistribution of surplus land have not benefited landless sections in any significant way. Latest data, for 2003, from the NSSO show that 38.3 per cent of rural households are landless. On the other hand, just 9 per cent of the households own 51 per cent of all land. It is thus clear that land reforms have been a major failure in the state in reducing concentration of land ownership.

The tasks on the land front in Maharashtra are, thus, clearly laid out.  In its adivasi strongholds, the AIKS has to launch a renewed struggle for the stringent implementation of the Forest Rights Act. Outside its adivasi strongholds , in association with the AIAWU, the AIKS has to ensure the distribution of surplus land at the earliest and ensure that violations of ceiling laws are brought into the ambit of its agitations. It also has to ensure that available government waste land is distributed to the landless, and diversions of waste land to give away land to corporate houses are prevented.



Secondly, Dr Ramakumar said that the economic “reform” process after 1991 has significantly weakened the institutional support structures in agriculture. The protection offered to agriculture from predatory imports was removed, resulting in a fall in prices of many commodities. As part of fiscal reforms, major input subsidies were brought down. Input costs have exhibited a sharp rise after a reduction in subsidies. This rise in the input cost is reflected in the rising electricity bills, rising costs of high yielding seeds, fertilisers, energy (diesel) and transportation. The rising input costs are not matched by crop yields and output prices. The minimum support price has not been available to all farmers, particularly the small and marginal farmers. Public capital formation in agriculture continued to fall, and the growth of public expenditure on research and extension slowed down. The expansion of rural credit was halted, reopening the doors for the informal sector. Farmers today have zero access to the public extension machinery that gives sound information on how to deal with pests and declining productivity of land. The farmers are dependent on agents of fertiliser and pesticide companies for advice on seeds and crop care. The information base of the farmers is, thus, limited to the data provided by the agents of input companies and their products. A reversal of neo-liberal policies in agriculture has become absolutely essential to revive the livelihood systems of rural households in India.


In the second session of the workshop, the burning problems of the peasantry from various regions of Maharashtra were placed by some of the AIKS state office-bearers, as follows: Marathwada – Arjun Adey, Vidarbha – Udayan Sharma, Western Maharashtra – A B Patil, Nashik – Hemant Waghere and Thane – Ratan Budhar. AIKS state secretary Kisan Gujar placed the coming organisational tasks related to AIKS conferences at all levels and the membership drive.



The same evening was the First Krishna Khopkar Memorial Lecture delivered by Dr V K Ramachandran. The event was presided over by J P Gavit, and Khopkar’s oldest comrade L B Dhangar paid tribute to his memory.  After paying rich homage to Comrade Krishna Khopkar, Ramachandran spoke on "Resolving the Agrarian Question in India". He said that the agrarian question continues to be the foremost national question before the people of India. This question had deeply influenced selfless leaders of the Kisan movement like P Sundarayya at the national level and Krishna Khopkar at the state level through their life. The significance of the agrarian question in India lies not merely in the fact that more than 70 per cent of India’s population lives in rural areas (an important reason in itself), but in the fact that the agrarian question is the axis of the people’s democratic revolution, and its overwhelming significance will remain as long as the people’s democratic phase continues.

When India gained independence 62 years ago, the major economic problems of the newly independent nation could be characterised thus: hundreds of millions of India’s people lived in the depths of income poverty, in conditions of hunger, illiteracy, lack of schooling, avoidable disease, and subject to what were among the worst forms of class, caste, and gender oppression in the world. The truly appalling feature of more than six decades of independent development is that, that characterisation of India’s economic problems remains true even today. The basic reason is clear: modern historical experience has shown us that no fundamental transformation of conditions of poverty and oppression in Indian society is possible without a resolution of its agrarian question.


He backed his analysis by placing extremely illuminating facts and figures from the intensive village surveys conducted by the AIKS and the Foundation of Agrarian Studies in several states including Maharashtra.  These landmark surveys give an indication of the true situation in the countryside.

Dr Ramachandran explained that to solve the agrarian question today is to address seven major issues:

·                    to free the countryside of all forms of landlordism, old and new;

·                    to free the working peasantry and manual workers from their present fetters of unfreedom and drudgery and to guarantee them the means of income and livelihood;

·                    to redistribute agricultural land;

·                    to provide the rural working people with house-sites, and basic, clean, sanitary homes and habitations;

·                    to create the conditions for the liberation of the people of the scheduled castes and tribes, of women, and other victims of sectional deprivation (including in most parts of India, the rural Muslim population);

·                    to ensure universal formal school education;

·                    to achieve the general democratisation of life and progressive cultural development in rural India. 




On the morning of the second day, delegates held district-wise group discussions where they planned out their agitational and organisational tasks for the coming six months. On behalf of each district, two comrades reported what they had planned to the entire workshop. This session, in which 34 comrades from 19 districts participated, was a rich and lively session. This session was presided over by AIKS state working president Rajaram Ozare, MLA. The AIKS workshop was greeted by CITU state general secretary Dr D L Karad, who stressed the importance of worker-peasant unity. 


An AIKS state council meeting was held in the afternoon and it finalised the agitational and organisational tasks in the light of the discussion by the delegates. These included a joint state convention of sugarcane peasants, cane cutters and sugar factory workers on October 21 at Amabajogai to be organised by the CITU, AIKS and AIAWU, and a convention of the cotton peasants organised by the AIKS at Amravati on October 31, in both of which, a call for struggle of these sections will be given; taking up issues of drought, irrigation, power, food security and other local issues in each district; launching another major state-wide struggle for the stringent implementation of the Forest Rights Act; beginning an intensive membership drive from October; and starting AIKS village conferences, to go on to tehsil and district conferences, to culminate in the 21st AIKS state conference to be held at Amravati in the Vidarbha region in March 2013.


These tasks were placed in their concluding speeches in the last session of the state workshop by Dr Ashok Dhawale and J P Gavit, who also spoke of the political challenges before the country and the state. They castigated the recent anti-people policies of the UPA-2 regime, like the diesel price hike, the limit placed on subsidised cooking gas cylinders, the green signal given to FDI in retail, and also the anti-peasant agrarian policies that had led to peasant suicides on an unprecedented scale. They attacked the massive corruption scandals of the UPA regime, as manifested most recently in the Coalgate scam in which the prime minister himself was involved. They also came down heavily on the agrarian policies of the Congress-NCP regime in Maharashtra, which had not only proved its bankruptcy in dealing with the severe drought situation in the state, but was also responsible for large-scale irrigation scams to the tune of thousands of crores of rupees. This scam has just led to the resignation of the NCP’s deputy chief minister and former irrigation minister.  Finally, both of them called for a massive strengthening of the AIKS and the Left movement in Maharashtra, to be able to combat the manifold challenges in the days ahead. The AIKS state workshop then concluded amidst great enthusiasm.