March 30, 2014


Remove Congress, Defeat BJP, Work for an Alternative THE sixteenth Lok Sabha elections are due to conduct the polling process on April 7 to May 12, 2014, with the results being declared on May 16. The agricultural labour, as the most oppressed and exploited section of the rural masses, must come forward to ensure the removal of the UPA-2 government from power at the centre. It is a government that has allowed a relentless price rise to continue for the last three years with no concern for the rural masses desperately fighting for their lives. On the contrary, it has, by refusing to distribute the food stocks rotting in FCI godowns, by raising the price of diesel and petroleum products, by allowing speculators to bring down the value of the rupee internationally, has fuelled the price rise in food, energy, fertilisers and transport to unbearable levels, leading to some three lakh suicides of farmers, thousands of hunger deaths of the rural poor and an unprecedented and desperate migration to towns and cities where they are employed in hazardous work, with low wages and abominable conditions of life. The rural poor must rise up and ensure the defeat of the callous government that has driven over 70 percent of the people below the poverty line and forced them to leave their homes and sell their assets. They have driven them to destitution. What is worse, the UPA-2 has consistently failed to provide adequate funds for rural development while it has benefited from the overwork of farmers and agricultural labourers for a pittance to notch up figures of growth in agriculture, while those who have produced these results starve, migrate and die. This policy of refusing to finance the small farmers and labourers in dire need and diverting credit meant for them to land speculators and agribusinesses, has resulted in a sharp dip in the days of work available in agriculture to barely fifty two days a year, while even government legislations like MGNREGA and Land Reform Acts and those protecting the rights of dalits and tribal people are allowed to be reversed with impunity, are funded inadequately or are subject to arbitrary and corrupt diversion of assets and funds, making a mockery of these measures over and above making life hell in the rural areas. It is a matter of grave concern that this state of affairs has been allowed to go on for nearly a decade, with both the NDA and UPA pursuing similar polices. It was the Vajpayee government that ended the quantitative restrictions on agricultural imports while Modi is touting a poverty line of Rs 11.80 per person per day, well below the Rs 26 suggested by the UPA, which was grossly underestimated. Now, they are touting schemes of exporting large numbers of Indians as labour to other countries without ensuring the protection of their human rights. Moreover, the NDA represents the agenda of communal and casteist aims and objectives which they are not averse to implementing in practice with the support of undemocratic organisations like the RSS and various fronts of the Sangh Parivar, which target minority and dalit rights, while the UPA-2 has shown how it too uses divisive tactics to gain petty advantages at the cost of long term damage to our lives. What is worse is that they are both equally committed to neo-liberal policies that are making life impossible for the mass of the Indian people. We therefore call on agricultural labour, dalits, tribals and the rural poor to come forward to remove the UPA-2 led by the Congress from power at the centre and defeat the BJP soundly in the coming elections and seek out candidates who provide a credible alternative to both these combines and bring them to the next Lok Sabha with their support. We demand the following from the candidates we support --- 1) Enacting a separate and comprehensive central legislation for agricultural workers to ensure minimum wages, the right to bargain collectively and measures of social security such as pensions, accident compensation etc with central funding. 2) Increasing minimum wages for agricultural workers to Rs 300 per day; ensuring equal wages for men and women agricultural workers. 3) Removing the limit of 100 days in MGNREGA; ensuring the payment of unemployment allowance when workers are not provided work. 4) Redistributing land to agricultural workers, free of cost; providing homestead land to all rural households; constructing dwellings for all rural workers free of charge. 5) Ensuring comprehensive debt relief and loan waiver to the distressed farmers and agricultural labourers, covering both institutional and private debts owed to moneylenders. 6) Recognising the rights of agricultural workers as persons affected eligible to full compensation, and resettlement and rehabilitation in all cases of land acquisition and displacement; arbitrary changes in land use from agriculture and food production for non-agricultural uses must be prevented. 7) Banning the use of poisonous insecticides injurious to health, like endosulfan, and ensuring free medical treatment for agricultural labour suffering from their ill-effects. 8) Safeguarding the constitutional rights of dalit and adivasi workers, especially the implementation of reservations in government and private establishments; land to the landless on a priority basis; ensuring the development of their habitations and implementing the atrocities-on-dalits legislation firmly and quickly. 9) Providing full and universal social security for all agricultural labourers through decentralised tripartite boards with a single window system with pan-Indian eligibility to protect the migrants. 10) Recognising all workers employed in different central and state government schemes like the Anganwadi workers and helpers, ASHA mid-day meal workers, para teachers, NCLP staff etc as ‘workers’ as per the recommendation of the 45th ILC and providing them with all attendant benefits including statutory minimum wages, social security benefits like pension etc, and ensuring their trade union rights. 11) Urgent measures to be taken to ensure a universal public distribution system providing 35 kg of grain at a maximum price of Rs 2 per kg and other necessities for all; the provision of free medicines in primary health centres in the villages, free uniforms, books and education for all students living in rural areas, and a sharp cut-back on prices being paid for oil, LPG and diesel that benefit private companies to bring down prices across the board. 12) Strict action and punishment of corrupt officials and those encouraging them to be corrupt, firm action to be taken especially with regard to the minorities and the rights of artisans. The appeal was released by AIAWU president P Ramayya, its general secretary A Vijayaraghavan and joint secretary Suneet Chopra.