A MASSIVE statewide convention of over 10,000 peasants was held at Jalgaon on September 26, 2017 under the banner of the Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Organisations of Maharashtra. This was the next step in the ongoing struggle for loan waiver and remunerative prices, directed against the BJP-led government in the state and at the centre. The last major joint action on August 14 had seen over two lakh peasants blocking all the national highways and state highways (chakka Jaam) in more than 200 centres in 31 districts of Maharashtra. All the earlier actions since the peasant strike on June 1 have been regularly covered in these columns in People’s Democracy/Loklahar.
Although the state government, under intense pressure of the joint peasant struggle, was forced to announce a Rs 34,000 crore loan waiver upto Rs 1.5 lakh per farmer, this was riddled with all kinds of conditions, which made a mockery of the promise of a complete loan waiver that it gave on June 11.
Further, in a move that was completely unnecessary and meant precisely to kill time, the state government asked for online individual applications from farmers to avail of the loan waiver scheme. The situation in this regard is shocking. The number of farmers who made online registrations for loan waiver is 1 crore 4 lakh. Of this, only 58 lakh actual applications for loan waiver were made online till September 22, which was the last date. 46 lakh farmers who had made the registrations could not submit the actual loan waiver applications. This was because of a host of reasons, viz. the government laying down the criterion of family (there are a large number of joint families in rural areas) instead of individual land holdings or bank accounts; the large number of deactivated Aadhar cards and non-matching of thumb impressions; the time frame prescribed for loan waiver which leaves a large number of sugarcane growers and others out of the net; innumerable difficulties in making online applications in the villages and so on.
But that is not all. Realising that there are several inaccuracies in the application forms, the government has now asked the banks to fill in a 66-column questionnaire as regards each bank account holder farmer, the number of these being around 90 lakh. This will obviously take months to complete. The simplest thing would have been, as happened in the implementation of the 2008 central government loan waiver scheme, to directly tell the banks to give the minimum loan details per farmer and then waive those loans by reimbursing the banks from the government. There is deep unrest and discontent all over the state about the current nonsensical procedure, which will increase manifold as soon as lakhs of applications are rejected due to the onerous conditions.
It is in this background that the Jalgaon convention was held and it flayed the state government on its crass betrayal of the loan waiver assurance and on other issues like implementation of the Swaminathan Commission recommendation ensuring remunerative prices, pension at Rs 5000 per month for poor peasants and agricultural workers, arbitrary and unjust land acquisition and so on.
Prominent among the peasant leaders who addressed this convention were Raju Shetty MP, Bachchu Kadu, MLA, Raghunathdada Patil, Baba Adhav, Dr Ashok Dhawale, Dr Ajit Nawale, Namdev Gavde, Pratibha Shinde, Kishor Dhamale, Sushila Morale and others.
The convention passed a resolution expressing its full support to the 15-day old joint statewide strike of two lakh anganwadi workers that is now being valiantly fought for their just demands.
The Jalgaon convention gave a clarion call to hold massive peasant (Baliraja) rallies at every district and tehsil centre in Maharashtra on October 20, which is Balipratipada day in Diwali. These statewide rallies of thousands of peasants each will demand that since the policies of the BJP government are directly responsible for the rising spate of suicides of debt-ridden peasants, cases under IPC section 302 (murder), 306 (abetment to suicide) and 420 (cheating) must be instituted against it. This call was welcomed by thousands of peasants amidst resounding cheers and slogans.
The Jalgaon unit of the Coordination Committee, led by Pratibha Shinde of the Lok Sangharsh Morcha, had made excellent arrangements for the success of this convention.