People's Democracy

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


Vol. XXXVI

No. 52

December 30, 2012

 

NAGPUR, MAHARASHTRA

 

Cotton Growers March on Assembly,

Cane Growers Fight for Fair Prices

                  

Arun Latkar

 

IN accordance with the call by the Vidarbha level convention of cotton and soyabean farmers, organised by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) at Amravati on October 31 (see Peopleís Democracy, November 19-25, 2012), nearly 5,000 peasants marched to the state assembly on December 12, 2012, during its winter session. They were led by the Maharashtra state council of the AIKS.

 

One notes that the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra has gained notoriety for peasant suicides and has been called the graveyard of farmers. December 12 was chosen for this march by the AIKS since it was on that day in 1930 that a renowned martyr of Maharashtra, Babu Genu, tried to stop a truck carrying British cloth in Mumbai during the Swadeshi movement of the freedom struggle, and was mercilessly run over by it.  

 

A notable feature of this action was that it comprised cotton growing peasants from the backward Vidarbha and Marathwada regions only. Though the main base of the AIKS in Maharashtra comprises the paddy growing adivasi peasants in Nashik and Thane districts, they were consciously not mobilised for this march.

 

Last month, the AIKS had intervened in the agitation of sugarcane growing peasants for fair prices also.

There is a big outrage among the peasantry of Maharashtra against the poor and un-remunerative prices being paid this year for sugarcane, cotton, soyabean and other crops. The AIKS march was to demand Rs 7500 per quintal for cotton, Rs 6500 for soyabean, Rs 3000 for paddy and Rs 3600 per tonne for sugarcane, with a first advance of Rs 2880 per tonne. It demanded that support prices for all crops must be fixed as per the recommendations of the National Commission of Farmers that was headed by Dr M S Swaminathan.

 

In view of the credit crunch leading to the forced dependence of peasants on private moneylenders, the AIKS has demanded institutional credit for all farmers at the rate of four per cent.

 

In view of the serious drought situation in Marathwada and some other parts of the state, the march also demanded drinking water, first and foremost, along with other urgent drought relief measures like compensation. In view of the massive irrigation scam that has been unearthed in Maharashtra, which led to the resignation (followed by recent reinstatement!) of deputy chief minister and former irrigation minister Ajit Pawar, the AIKS has been demanding strict action against all those responsible for the scam. Along with this, it has also demanded the completion of incomplete irrigation projects on a war footing.

 

The AIKS march insisted on an end to the chronic load-shedding of power and the withdrawal of the hike in power tariff. It also raised demands for universalisation of the public distribution system and cheap grains to all, and for the right to education, employment and health in the rural areas.

 

An AIKS delegation led by state working president Rajaram Ozare, MLA, and comprising state general secretary Kisan Gujar, state office bearers Dada Raipure, Arjun Adey, Shankarrao Danav, Yashwant Zade and Arun Latkar met the state agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and submitted a memorandum of demands. In the 40-minute discussion with the minister, the latter agreed in principle with most of the demands and assured the delegation of a quick decision on them.

 

The march culminated in a rally near the state assembly, which was addressed by all the said AIKS leaders. State council member Vilas Babar effectively conducted the proceedings of the rally. The leading AIKS activists from Vidarbha and Marathwada regions who worked for the success of this march included Prakash Sonone, Vijay Ingle, Mahadev Garpawar, Gopal Galkar, Rameshwar Kale, Jitendra Chopade, Anil Gaikwad, Devidas Mohkar, Kisanrao Moharle, Sanjay Bhoyar, Raju Hatwar, Namdevrao Gavhale, Digambar Poul, Kisan Poul and others.  

 

The AIKS state council had printed 5000 posters and the AIKS district councils had printed thousands of leaflets for the propagation of this march on the state assembly.

 

SUGARCANE

FARMERS IN STIR

Last month in November, sugarcane farmers in different parts of the state came out on the streets in their thousands to demand remunerative price for sugarcane. While every year this issue is sorted out through a tripartite meeting of representatives of the state government, sugar factories and farmersí organisations, this year, a peculiar situation arose because the Congress-NCP state government took the unprecedented stand that it was in no way concerned with the sugarcane price issue, which should be settled by the farmers themselves with the concerned sugar factory! This withdrawal mode of the state on a vital issue even more angered the farmers and they directed their anger against both the state government and also the corrupt and rapacious sugar lobby, which has always given a raw deal to all the three toiling sections in the sugar industry, viz cane growers farmers, cane cutters and cane factory workers.

 

Earlier, on October 21, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), AIKS and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) organised a convention of all the above three toiling sections at Ambajogai in Beed district. It was inaugurated by CITU state general secretary Dr D L Karad, and the main speakers were AIKS CKC member Dr Ashok Dhawale, AIKS state president J P Gavit, AIAWU state general secretary Prakash Choudhari, former deputy sugar commissioner E Haridas, Shetkari Sanghatana leader Kalidas Apet and president of the INTUC-affiliated sugar federation Babanrao Pawar. The convention was presided over by CITU state vice president Uddhav Bhavalkar and the main resolution of demands was placed by CITU state secretary Anna Sawant.

 

In November, various peasant organisations like the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and the AIKS led the agitation for fair prices in various districts. Huge rallies and road blockades were organised in districts in Western Maharashtra, which is the bastion of the sugar industry, and in Marathwada. One cane farmer in Sangli district was killed in police firing, which led to a mass uproar.

 

In Kolhapur district, four parties, viz PWP, CPI(M), CPI and JD(S), came together to form a Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti which led several local struggles and also a large demonstration on the sugar commissionerís office at Pune. In Kolhapur district, the AIKS and the CITU affiliated Sugarcane Cutters Union played an important role in this struggle. The AIKS was also in the lead in places like Pathri tehsil in Parbhani district of Marathwada and Akole tehsil in Ahmednagar district of Western Maharashtra, where thousands of sugarcane farmers were mobilised. Memorandums were submitted by the AIKS in Solapur and other districts. The CPI(M) and AIKS/CITU leaders who led this struggle were Dr Subhash Jadhav, Prof A B Patil, Dr Ajit Nawale and Deepak Lipne.

 

In many districts, this stir succeeded in getting the first advance for sugarcane ranging from Rs 2300 to Rs 2500 per tonne, which was substantially higher than that given last year and also more than the paltry amount that was initially announced by the sugar factories this year.