People's Democracy

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


No. 52

December 29, 2013




 Pattas for Abadkar Farmers

AIKS to Hold a 3-day Protest


S S Sekhon


THE Punjab state committee of the All India Kisan Sabha held a mass rally of over 3000 farmers and agricultural labourers from all parts of the state in Ludhiana on December 20, 2013. The rally was held at a historic village called Hambaran which is known for its role in the Gadhar movement and is a center of the Left movement today. The participants came at the height of the bone biting winter to announce the farmers' and agricultural labourers' pressing demands regarding the agrarian crisis and the life and death struggle of the rural masses resulting from the shameless implementation of anti-farmer policies by both the former Congress and the present Akali-BJP governments of the state. People of all ages, women and men attended the rally at the peak of the winter reflecting the depth of the crisis. It is significant that at this time the ruling Akalidal was forced to cancel its public rally here in which the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi was supposed to speak. Obviously they did not have faith in their capacity to mobilise the peasantry behind their policies as the Left is able to do.


Addressing the rally, AIKS general secretary Hannan Mollah demanded a comprehensive legislation providing ownership for all Abadkar farmers who had been allowed to farm waste lands when they came over as refugees from Pakistan in 1947, which the Akali government is now attempting to take over in direct contrast even to neighbouring Haryana.  He also demanded a waiver of farm loans as cultivation was becoming more unviable in Punjab than any other state. To make peasant cultivation viable, he demanded that the government must announce a minimum support price as suggested by renowned agricultural scientist Dr MS Swaminathan. He felt that one of the reasons for non viability of cultivation is because of  the enormous increase in input costs including that of power for bore wells. He demanded supply of free power for farmers using tube wells as a source of irrigation and also the necessary input subsidy on diesel, seeds, fertilizers and pesticides as well. He criticised both the central as well as state governments for providing undue benefits to corporate companies at the cost of small farmers. Referring to the anti-farmer policies of the Narendra Modi government, which filed a petition in Supreme Court against the interests of Abadkar farmers, as he wants to hand over the land from farmers to investment zones, he demanded the withdrawal of this petition immediately. He referred also to his meetings with Sikh farmers from Kutch, their role in developing the area and our support for it. He also pointed out that it is shocking that Badal was running a government in Punjab with the help of a party evicting Punjabi farmers from Gujarat. 


All India Agricultural Workers Union joint secretary Suneet Chopra remarked how over a period of time peasant cultivation had become non profitable and on an average each farmer lost Rs 1200 per acre per year. This is forcing the farmers to sell their land and join the mass of agricultural labourers. According to one estimate, 40 percent of farmers are willing to shun cultivation provided a suitable alternative employment is available for them. With the large number of farmers now joining the ranks of agricultural workers, the average working days available per season is reduced to a mere 38 days in a year. This is pushing the agricultural labour, the small and marginal farmers into the clutches of money lenders to sustain their daily needs. He also criticised the Punjab government’s lax attitude in providing 100 days employment under MNREGA. Punjab is one of the states with lowest MNREGA budget utilisation. He demanded that the state government prepare a suitable working plan to secure 100 days work under MNREGA at least in the forthcoming summer season to reduce migration of agricultural workers from Punjab to cities in search of a livelihood. He also reiterated the demand for 250 days work under MNREGA with Rs 300 daily wage to help the vast mass of the rural poor of Punjab to survive. He also said that in Punjab, the government is having under its control 30 lakhs acres of land apart from additional 10 lakhs acres of surplus land. He reminded the gathering that in Punjab there are only 15 lakhs agricultural workers and despite 300 percent excess land under the custody of government, it is not ready to distribute this to agricultural workers. He stressed the importance both of work and the distribution of land among the landless to resist the uncontrolled price rise the mass of people were suffering from for the last ten years, stating that the anger of the people was seen in the election in Delhi where both the Congress and the BJP failed to be able to trap the people in a two party system, where both the parties were a burden on them. He stated that Punjab had a tradition of a powerful Left to counter both these forces and called on the people to develop a viable Left alternative in the 2014 elections in Punjab.


CPI(M) state secretary Charan Singh Virdi called on the gathering to build a strong movement and fight on till we succeed in ensuring the ownership rights to Abadkar farmers.  He alleged that the government is encouraging the illegal possession to scuttle the farmers demand for land rights. He also called on people to support the CPI(M) party candidate in Ludhiana in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. He highlighted the role of the Left in taking up the struggles of the peasantry like the anti-betterment levy movement, struggles against arbitrary taxes and cesses, and the failure to give adequate support to the just demands of the peasants. He assured the gathering that the CPI(M) would stand by them through thick and thin and make every sacrifice to ensure their success.


The Punjab Kisan Sabha secretary Sukhvinder Singh Sekhon informed the gathering about the sustained struggle and hunger strike  of Abadkars for more than 57 days before the office of Naib Tehsildar at Sidhwan Bet where Chopra was present more than once. He also informed the gathering that compelled by our agitation, the Punjab chief minister agreed to appoint a three-member committee to look into issues of Abadkar farmers land rights. This committee consists of the principal secretary to the CM, the finance commissioner from the revenue department and the advocate general. To ensure that this committee completes its work within the given time frame and to keep up  the pressure, a state level three-day state level protest action is planned in the end of January 2014.


Gurchetan Singh Bassi, the state president of the AIKS who also presided over the rally announced that the AIKS will gherao Punjab vidhan sabha on their just demands. He also called upon the gathering to make a grand success of the martyrs conferences to commemorate the sacrifices of farmers during the anti-betterment levy movement. These conferences will be organised at the villages of Aitiana on March 5, 2014 and at Narur on March 12, 2014. 


Vijay Mishra, president CITU Punjab congratulated AIKS for the successful rally and supported the demands of Abadkars. Bhup Chand Channo, president AIAWU also highlighted the necessity of jointly fighting for work, land and against the price rise to ensure the survival of the mass of people of Punjab which is a rural state. Ram Singh Nurpury, Bant Singh Namol, Gurmeet Singh Dhadha, Balbir Singh Jadla, Major Singh, Dharampal Seal, Roop Basant Waraich, Baldev Latala, Mukhtar Singh Jalaldiwal, Amarjit Mattu, Tarsem Singh Bhalri, Major Singh Bhikhi Wind, Gurnek Singh Bhanjal also spoke on this occasion.