People's Democracy

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


No. 42

October 20, 2013




The 8th Maharashtra Agricultural Workers Conference


Prakash Chaudhary    


WHILE the poor suffer from unemployment, malnutrition and poverty, the Manmohan Singh government is giving huge concessions to the foreign and Indian corporates only to increase their profits. The BJP has the same pro-big business policies. Therefore, there is a need to change the anti-people policies and not the leaders of the bourgeois political parties. Replacing Manmohan Singh by Rahul Gandhi or Advani by Modi is not going to change the prevailing, most horrible conditions faced by the rural working masses. The people of India will bring a non-Congress non-BJP force to march ahead during the next parliamentary elections advancing the agenda of pro-people policies.


It was with these words that the A Vijayraghavan, general secretary of the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU), concluded his speech in a public meeting at Ambajogai in Beed district of Maharashtra. The impressive public meeting was organised in connection with the eighth Maharashtra state conference of the Agricultural Workers Union on September 21 and 22.




The conference took place immediately after a successful nationwide campaign on issues like wages, land, food security and MGNREGA in pursuance of the AIAWU’s central working committee’s call. The delegates gathered for the agricultural workers conference with great confidence and overwhelming enthusiasm as they came there after participating in a nationwide campaign and agitation call given by the CWC of the AIAWU held in Navi Mumbai.


This call was given to mobilise agricultural workers and other rural, poor wage workers on the main demands of this class. The demands include a comprehensive central legislation for agricultural workers, wage increase, land for cultivation and housing, prompt and proper implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and Forest Rights Act (FRA), universal food security without any discrimination, and severe punishment to the culprits perpetrating inhuman atrocities on dalits, adivasis, women and minorities. Thousands of rural workers were approached by the Maharashtra state unit of the AIAWU by distributing a large number of handbills, conducting jathas and organising public meetings in the month of July, braving continuous rains in many districts. Then, in the month of August, morchas, dharnas, gherao and satyagraha were organised on tehsil and district levels in order to compel the government officers like tehsildars and collectors to discuss the issues with the leading cadre of the union and immediately give some relief on the burning issues of the rural working class.


The momentous satyagraha agitation galvanised the rural landless workers, and hundreds of tribal men and women entered and hoisted red flags in 193 acres of grazing land in Fattepur village; which was illegally encroached upon by a big absentee capitalist landlord. They raised slogans for eviction of the landlord forcefully by not providing him any labourer to cultivate this land, and took possession of this land along with the standing crop for the benefit of the local landless families. Astonishingly, the same landlord was allotted 500 acres of land by the colonial British regime in the midst of a tribal majority habitat. This land was given to the landlord under the pretext of establishing a “demonstrative farm.”


So, after the Agricultural Workers Union’s call to occupy lands for the landless, the Fattepur and surrounding villages too decided to take possession of these 500 acres of land.


The landless and houseless rural toiling people staged satyagraha on 62 acres of ‘Devasthan’ trust land too and demanded the allotment of the same for the flood affected poor families in village Prakasha.


In Mohupada village, hundreds of adivasis entered the land that was originally owned by a tribal family but had been grabbed by a non-tribal moneylender. Under the pressure of a militant and powerful agitation, the Maharashtra state government had passed two Acts in 1974 and 1975 to prohibit the transaction of tribal lands and their transfer to non-tribals and for the restoration of tribal lands already transferred to non-tribals. But still many non-tribal moneylenders are holding tribal lands. The satyagraha was staged with the purpose to tell that it must either implement the said acts promptly or else the tribals would take their possession forcefully. 




At the time of the AIAWU state conference, a colourful rally of the rural working class of Beed distict, along with 149 delegates from nine districts, carrying red flags, marched in a disciplined way through the lanes and mohullas of the Ambajogai town. Never tiring drumbeaters charged the whole atmosphere while the marching women and men raised revolutionary slogans. Residents and traders of Ambajogai town welcomed and greeted the marchers while women workers belonging to the CITU showered flowers on the procession. The procession converged in a big public meeting in an auditorium named after the first Marathi poet Mukundraj. While addressing the gathering, Hannan Mollah, a joint secretary of the AIAWU and now the general secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha lashed the UPA government for giving special considerations to the Mukesh Ambani group by enhancing the prices of natural gas in KG basin while the rural women are left hapless to bear the untold miseries of collecting fuel for cooking. The rally was presided by Maharashtra Agricultural Workers Union president, Babasaheb Sarvade.


The inaugural session of the conference was started with the unfurling of the AIAWU flag by Hannan Mollah, followed by floral tributes at the martyrs column. Professor Subhash Dhule, in his welcome speech, told that the conference was taking place in a land of long drawn militant historical struggles led by the peasants and agricultural workers against the tyrannical Nizam rule. A Vijayraghavan, in his inaugural speech, expressed hope that the delegates would discuss the terrible impact of neo-liberal policies of the bourgeois-landlord governments on the rural working masses and stressed the need for organising consistent struggles to strengthen the union. He insisted on deliberating on the burning issues emanating from this impact of the anti-people policies. He also appealed for serious consideration of the roots of the union’s organisational weaknesses and for suggestions about the ways to overcome these weaknesses.


Kisan Sabha leader Pandurang Rathod, SFI leader Bhausaheb Zirpe, DYFI leader Ajay Burande and CITU leader Bhanudas Khade greeted the conference by expressing fraternal solidarity with the struggles of the rural working class. JMS leader Sonia Gill sent a message of greetings; it was read out in the conference.


General secretary of the Maharashtra Agricultural Workers Union, Prakash Chaudhary, said, while presenting the report, that the agrarian crisis is deepening in Maharashtra due to the curtailment of public investment for rural development. The recurring droughts and floods cause havoc not because of natural calamities but as a result of the government policies. Agricultural production has gone down significantly. The share of agriculture and allied sector in the state GDP has gone down to 11 percent from 21 percent in 1991. Rural unemployment has touched the double digit due to the large scale mechanisation. The skewed land ownership pattern in the state throws light on the growing landlessness: 1.80 crore landholders operate 1.87 percent of land while the top 73,000 landowners control 40 percent of cultivable land. The percentage of landless families is increasing fast while the real estate business is booming and the number of absentee parasite landlords is multiplying.




The report also pointed out that the union led two morchas on Mumbai assembly for the effective implementation of MGNREGA. When the minister refused to meet the delegation, about 4,000 rural workers participating in the morcha started to break the barricades in Azad Maidan. This militant action forced the minister to negotiate with the union leaders and accepted to make amendments in the schedule of rates according to the increased wages declared by the central rural development ministry. The struggles conducted successfully in Nandurbar, Beed, Jalana districts etc compelled the reluctant bureaucrats to provide work under the employment guarantee scheme, increased wages and the arrears of the delayed payments. The union fought against the use of machinery and contractors misusing the said scheme’s funds. The rampant corruption in MGNREGA was exposed by union activists pointing, out the false entries in the muster rolls published on the MGNREGA web site. Though many complaints were lodged, no action was taken against the corrupt officers.


The minimum wages in the four zones of the state were not revised as per the central ministry’s declared wage rate of Rs 162 per day. But due to the union’s persistent agitation and strikes in some districts, agricultural workers have got some increase in wages. The more than nine lakh sugarcane cutters in the state opposed the use of cane harvesters after the sugar barons brought the harvesters. Now the cane cutters are getting Rs 190 per tonne. Due to the two strikes of cane cutters, organised mainly in Beed and Kolhapur districts, the union achieved compensation for accidents and insurance benefits. However, it has to pay more attention to approaching the cane cutter emigrants who they go to Karnataka and Gujarat.


The report further said the union led many struggles on local issues like health, drinking water, house sites, sanitation, roads etc and also for the implementation of social security schemes like old age pension, Shravan Bal Yojana, Rajeev Gandhi Niradhar Yojana etc. the union constantly intervened in addressing the issues of rehabilitation of the victims of social atrocities and demanded stringent punishment to the culprits. Yet still we have to do away with the unwillingness to intervene immediately as it exists in some districts whenever such events take place.




About the organisation, the report said there are district committees in Nandurbar, Beed, Parbhani, Amaravati, Kolhapur, Jalgaon and Jalana districts, while organising committees were formed in Wardha, Hingoli and some other districts. In Beed and Nandurbar districts the tehsil committees are active while in others they occasionally function. The village level committees have not been properly organised and that is the one of the main organisational lacunae. The union membership was 94,709 in 2012-13. ”


Thirty four delegates including ten women participated in the discussion on the report. They pointed out the shortcomings in the report and asked for the corrections self-critically. They gave various valuable suggestions about improving the functioning of the union by conducting regular study classes and increasing the number of wholetimers.


After including the valuable suggestions, the report was unanimously adopted by the conference. The conference also passed the following resolutions: 1. For the formation of a state level welfare board for agricultural workers. 2. For the formation of a mathadi board for sugarcane and transport workers. 3. Against the social atrocities and for social justice. 4. For land for all landless families and houses for all houseless; for implementation of the FRA. 5. Universalisation of food security with the provision of 35 kg of grains at Rs 2 per kg.


A new state council of 21 members was elected. The state council, in turn, elected eight office bearers with Natthubhau Salve as president, Baliram Bhumbe as general secretary and Prakash Chaudhary as treasurer.


In the concluding session of the conference, Hannan Maollah and Vijayraghavan appreciated the efforts made by union activists and politically conscious deliberations of the delegates in the discussion on the report placed by the general secretary of the Maharashtra state unit of the union. They pointed out the major shortcomings in the functioning of the union committees and weaknesses in enrolling membership and formation of the village level units. There is no dearth of issues and problems of the agricultural workers and rural poor. The agitations are also being carried on regularly. But, Vijayraghavan said, the main deficiency lies in the lack of conscious effort to sincerely plan agitations on local issues and take these agitations to their conclusion by sustained struggles so that some concrete benefits are attained.


The union has to organise struggles at two levels. One is on the local issues that are agitating the minds of the people and the other is for alternative pro-people policies. So the responsibility to go to the roots, to villages and try to establish intimate rapport with the rural poor by sharing real life experiences with them is shouldered by a few sincere comrades. The reluctance about formation of village level units not only results in membership decline but also impacts badly the ability of the union in take the militant agitations forward. The synchronising and dialectically understanding the activities of agitations and enrolment of membership must become the internalised mental setup of each and every leader. All activists are leaders and all leaders are activists.


Hannan Mollah, while clearing some doubts raised in the discussion by the delegates, explained that though the name of the union is “Agricultural Workers Union,” we have to grasp the vast scope of registering and mobilising all the rural wage workers as well as those who are involved in carrying small little business and transport of agricultural and allied produce. Our union is the union of rural working class. It is a working class organisation to advance the class struggle on the firm foundation of worker-peasant alliance. We should not feel shy of enrolling all the toiling rural people working in toddy collection, coconut plucking, contract labourers and migrant workers going for employment in metal quarries, hawkers, sellers of vegetables, fruit, milk and other items, bhangar-scrap collectors etc. Because of the fast spreading urbanisation as well as mechanisation of agriculture and reduction in agricultural employment, many rural workers are migrating to urban areas for employment in the construction industry. So we have to make surveys, study and understand the problems of all these rural toilers and try to organise them under the umbrella of the AIAWU. Separate sub-committees for these different sections of the rural working masses should be formed and affiliated to the AIAWU.


A Vijayraghavan emphasised the urgent need to conduct regular study classes to train and develop young cadre by inculcating in them enhanced socio-political consciousness so that the enormous rural working masses cannot be deceived by the reactionary obscurantist ideas constantly propagated by the capitalist and imperialist media. The proliferated propaganda under the garb of religious ethos and the appearance of Asarams and Mahamayas must be fought out to defeat the religious fundamentalist forces along with the neo-liberal policies. To organise and strengthen the rural working masses under the banner of the AIAWU is one of the most revolutionary tasks which have to be advanced with full force. The challenge of the present neo-liberal economic policies has to be met by changes in the present caste ridden patriarchal social structure, among other things. Radical socio-economic and political changes can be attained by changing ourselves and the rural poor, and by directing our struggles with a revolutionary perspective. The educators must be educated. The revolutionary must be revolutionised.


The presidium of the included Babasaheb Saravade, Narayan Gaikwad, Indira Chavan and Maroti Khandare. The excellent arrangements and hospitality for the success of the conference would not have been possible without the day and night hard work of the volunteers of the SFI, DYFI, and of the democratic movement in general. Advocate Ajay Burande extended a vote of thanks to all who assisted and helped generously.