A Two day state level convention of Women agricultural workers of Karnataka concluded on March 9, 2017, demanding from the central government a sum of Rs 3000 each to all the poor rural families, every month, as drought relief. The main resolution that was adopted by the convention said that all the states in south India, including Karnataka were under severe drought. The rural poor get no work to earn any income. The public distribution system does not work. In most of the places, the people do not even get water to drink. The cattle are dying of starvation. The poor people are forced to flee from their villages to urban areas looking for some employment. The women agricultural workers are the most affected. The burden of feeding the children and maintaining the household is thrust on their shoulders. The national rural employment guarantee act, if properly implemented could have provided them an opportunity to earn some income. These are the people who were hit hard also by demonetisation.
The convention, therefore gave a call to observe March 31 as ‘Women Agricultural Workers Demands Day’, with demands for free ration, 250 days of work under MNREGA with Rs 350 as daily wage and payment of Rs 3000 per month to every poor family as drought relief.
The convention which was held in Mandya city was preceded by a mass rally and a public meeting.
Prof. VD Suvarna inaugurated the convention. She said that women need to stop weeping over their fate and instead should organise themselves for equal wages and for equal opportunities.
The main speaker was A Vijayaraghavan, general secretary of AIAWU. He strongly criticised Prime Minister Modi for always speaking about development and not showing minimum concern for the most underdeveloped sections of the rural poor. The women agricultural workers ask for ration cards and the prime minister is offering them credit cards. When rural poor are starving without food, he is not concerned about providing them either employment or food security. Vijayaraghavan told the convention to discuss in detail the situation of women agricultural workers in Karnataka and chalk out a militant struggle programme for food security, more work and increased wages under MNREGA. He also advised the leadership not to fail in taking up issues women agricultural workers face as women such as harassment at work place, dowry, discrimination, harassment by family members, sexual abuse, malnutrition etc. The convention was inaugurated by distributing coconut saplings to a number of women agricultural workers.
Nityananda Swami, president of the state unit of AIAWU, J Prema Kumari, president of Mandya zilla panchayat and KT Shrikante Gowda, member of legislative council also spoke. Mallamma Kodli, convener of state women agricultural workers sub-committee presided. Office bearers of the union, Chandrappa Hoskera, M Puttamadhu, K Basavaraj and others were present.
WORKSHOP ON MNREGA
In the afternoon, a workshop on “the need to strengthen and implement the MNREGA Act”, was held. While inaugurating the workshop, A Vijayaraghavan said that in the background of recurring drought in many of the states, the proper implementation of this Act alone can provide some useful employment to the rural workers, specially the women. Hence it needs to be strengthened by allocating more funds every year and by offering more days of work. We should demand at least 250 days of work in a year with the daily rated wages of atleast Rs 400. But the Modi government, instead of strengthening the programme, is trying to dilute it by reducing the allocation. Hence our union should mobilise rural workers to save and strengthen the MNREGA, he said.
The district officer who was present as a special invitee spoke and answered the questions raised by the participants. Some of the participants narrated the difficulties they faced to get work and their wages under MNREGA. Prof. Kemppamma spoke about the International Women’s Day.
The delegates session of the convention which began in the evening was attended by about 200 women agricultural workers from 11 districts. A presidium was elected to conduct the proceedings. After paying homage to departed leaders and cadres, the draft report was placed by the convener of the sub-committee.
Next morning, discussion on the draft report was conducted. The report contained the conditions of women agricultural workers in Karnataka and their charter of demands. 15 delegates participated in the discussion. After the reply given by the convener, the report was adopted unanimously with few amendments.
The convention was greeted by AIDWA leader Devi, DSMM leader Rajendra, Kisan Sabha leader Yahvant and CITU leader of the association of physically disabled Doddamari Gowda, and CITU leader Chandru. The convention decided to hold demonstrations on March 31 at district centers and observe ‘Women Agricultural Workers Demands Day’. It was decided that district level women agricultural workers conventions should be held once a year and the state level sub-committee should meet at least four times a year. It was also decided that our union should organise programmes to inculcate scientific temper among women agricultural workers and also to promote artistic talents that are inherent among women.
Finally a new sub-committee of women agricultural workers was elected consisting of 32 members. Mallamma Kodli was re-elected as convener of the committee and Nagratha Nada, Sarojamma, Jagadevi Chandanakera and Bagamma Gangavathi were elected as joint conveners. At the end, the concluding session was held in which CITU district president, Ramakrishna participated as the chief guest. He said that the working class will always support the democratic demands of women agricultural workers. With singing of songs and shouting of slogans the convention came to a close.