MAHATMA Jotirao Phule had written a celebrated book that was aptly called “Shetkaryacha Aasood” (whipcord of the farmer). The Maharashtra Rajya Kisan Sabha (AIKS) has begun an Aasood Yatra throughout the state from April 11. The date is historic for three reasons: it is the 190th birth anniversary of Mahatma Phule; it is the death anniversary of Chhatrapati Shivaji, whom Phule had hailed as the king of the peasantry; and it is the 81st foundation day of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS). The yatra will culminate on May 11 in a massive Aasood Rally of farmers at the residence of the BJP’s state agriculture minister, Pandurang Fundkar, at Khamgaon in Buldana district in the Vidarbha region.
This was decided in the AIKS state council meeting held on March 27. After the massive one lakh strong AIKS sit-in satyagraha at Nashik in March 2016; the militant struggle on the issue of drought at the Aurangabad divisional commissioner’s office in May 2016; the impressive coffin rally to the Thane district collector’s office to mark the AIKS state conference in June 2016; and the 50,000 strong siege of adivasi development minister, Vishnu Savra's house at Wada in Palghar district which yielded concrete gains for the sdivasi peasantry; the AIKS has now decided to take forward the farmers’ agitation straight to the agriculture minister.
To create public awareness about the rally, the AIKS Aasood Yatra is being taken to all the districts this month. Farmers’ conventions and demonstrations will be held in 24 districts of the state. AIKS state office-bearers have been allotted responsibilities for attending these events, the district wise dates of which were decided in the state council meeting itself.
The government’s neoliberal, anti-farmer policies are responsible for the grave conditions of our peasantry. Both the central and state BJP-Shiv Sena governments are responsible for this state of affairs. Farmers are driven to commit suicide because of this, since they are debt-ridden. 12,602 farmers committed suicide in our country in the year 2015. Compared to 2014, this is a massive 42 percent increase. With 4,291 farmer suicides in 2015, Maharashtra under the BJP-Shiv Sena regime tops the list in farmers' suicides in the country.
"If we come to power, we will stop farmers’ suicides by implementing the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission", was the promise given by Narendra Modi during the Lok Sabha election campaign. After coming to power, the government blatantly gave an affidavit to the Supreme Court saying that this promise cannot be implemented. This was the biggest betrayal of farmers by the government. The Fadnavis government too had made big promises during the campaign for the Vidhan Sabha elections. After coming to power it has also conveniently forgotten such promises.
The main demands of this Aasood Rally are: give complete loan waiver to farmers who own less than 25 acres of dry land and less than 10 acres of irrigated land; provide remunerative price to farmers as cost of production plus 50 percent profit; implement all the recommendations in the interest of farmers made by the National Commission on Farmers headed by Dr M S Swaminathan; immediately stop the conspiracy of snatching farmers’ land in the name of the Mumbai-Nagpur Samruddhi Highway, the Delhi-Mumbai Industrial Corridor; hand over forest land, temple/shrine land, pasture land with pattas to the cultivating peasants; remove the oppressive conditions in the crop insurance scheme and provide comprehensive insurance security to all farmers; provide pension of Rs 3000 per month to poor and middle peasants and agricultural workers aged 60 and above; ensure at least 200 days of work and minimum wage of Rs 350 per day to agricultural workers under MNREGA; give priority to local peasants while distributing water from the several dams built in adivasi areas; and make adequate financial provision for irrigation and power.
By taking this Aasood Rally to the residence of the agriculture minister, the Kisan Sabha will demand that the government implement the election promises that they had made to our farmers. Thousands of peasants from 24 districts of Maharashtra will participate in the Aasood Rally on May 11, 2017. It will be led by AIKS national joint secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale, AIKS former state presidents J P Gavit, MLA and Dada Raipure, state president Kisan Gujar, state working president Arjun Ade and state general secretary Dr Ajit Nawale.