MAHARASHTRA: AIKS Holds March to Assembly on Peasant Issues
AROUND 5,000 peasants led by the Maharashtra State Kisan Sabha (AIKS) marched to the Nagpur session of the state assembly on December 16, 2014 on burning peasant issues like severe drought, peasant suicides, debt relief, remunerative prices for agricultural produce, implementation of the Forest Rights Act, etc. It was the first and the largest peasant demonstration on the assembly after the BJP-led state government assumed power a month ago. Hence the AIKS action got good publicity in both print and electronic media. This march was led by AIKS national joint secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale, former AIKS state president Jiva Pandu Gavit MLA, state president Dada Raipure, state general secretary Kisan Gujar, state working president Arjun Adey, state vice-presidents Udayan Sharma and Yashwant Zade, state joint secretaries Shankarrao Danav and Uddhav Poul and state council members. The main demands were declaration of drought in the state; compensation of Rs 25,000 per hectare; waiver of all loans, electricity bills, water tariff and students fees in drought-hit areas; rapid expansion of the MGNREGA and provision of work in every village; remunerative price of Rs 7,000 per quintal for cotton, Rs 5,000 per quintal for soyabean, Rs 3,000 per quintal for paddy and Rs 3,750 per tonne for sugarcane; reduction of prices of all agricultural inputs; provision of 35 Kg grain at Rs 2 per Kg for every family; and stringent implementation of the Forest Rights Act. Slogans of the demands rent the air as the march passed through the roads of Nagpur city. The largest contingent in this march was from Nashik district. There was substantial mobilisation from Wardha, Yavatmal, Buldana, Nagpur, Bhandara and Gondia districts of Vidarbha region and from Parbhani and Nanded districts of Marathwada region. Nandurbar, Jalna, Hingoli, Usmanabad and Amravati districts also participated in the march. 7,000 posters and more than 50,000 leaflets were printed for this campaign. A public meeting was held near the Vidhan Sabha. J P Gavit, MLA, condemned the state government for disregarding the tremendous problems faced by the peasantry due to the drought and not taking any steps to prevent peasant suicides. He exhorted the peasants to unite under the banner of the Kisan Sabha and prepare for major struggles in the days ahead. AIKS joint secretary Dr Ashok Dhawale said that we now have BJP-led governments in the centre and state, whose actions do not match their announcements. Many promises were made during the Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabha elections. They had said that the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission would be implemented. But neither the Modi nor Fadanvis governments have done anything to help the peasantry. Instead, these governments are doing everything to help the big capitalists, landlords and moneylenders. He called upon the peasants to strengthen the AIKS organisation, organise militant struggles and take the government to task for ignoring the just demands of the peasantry. Kisan Gujar said that last year peasants had suffered tremendous losses as the crops were totally devastated due to sleet and floods. This year the agricultural season started late as the rains were delayed. As a result, crop output was low. Later, unseasonal rains and hailstorms broke the backbone of the peasantry by destroying whatever crop was remaining. This has resulted in an increase in peasant suicides. Gujar warned the state government that if it did not take steps in favour of the peasantry, it will have to face the wrath of the oppressed sections. The public meeting was also addressed by Dada Raipure, Arjun Adey, Udayan Sharma, Yashwant Zade, Shankarrao Danav, Vilas Babar, Uddhav Poul, Savliram Pawar, Ankush Budhwant, Limbaji Kachare, Deepak Lipne, Bhaskar Salve, Jitendra Chopade, Mahadev Garpawar, Govind Ardad and Manohar Rangari. It was greeted by Amrut Meshram on behalf of the CITU and by Rameshwar Poul on behalf of the AIAWU. A delegation of the state leaders of the AIKS met chief minister Devendra Fadnavis and submitted a memorandum. He agreed to look into the demands and take appropriate action. Before this march on the Nagpur state assembly, the AIKS and AIAWU had organised a Marathwada-level march on the Aurangabad Divisional Commissioner’s office on December 4, 2014. Marathwada region has been the worst affected by drought for the last three years. The Aurangabad march was led by Dr Ashok Dhawale, J P Gavit MLA, Kisan Gujar, Arjun Adey, Dr Ajit Nawale, Pandurang Rathod, Ramkrishna Shere, Uddhav Poul and Vilas Babar of the AIKS and by Babasaheb Sarwade, Baliram Bhumbe and Maroti Khandare of the AIAWU. Uddhav Bhavalkar of the CITU, Bhagwan Bhojane of the DYFI and Sunil Rathod of the SFI greeted the march. Three regional meetings of the AIKS were organised in November-end to plan these actions. The Western Maharashtra meeting was held at Kolhapur, the Vidarbha meeting was held at Wardha and the Marathwada meeting was held at Parbhani. All three meetings were attended by AIKS state president Dadar Raipure and state general secretary Kisan Gujar. As per the decisions here, AIKS demonstrations on the above issues were held in many districts. The AIKS state council meeting that was held at Belapur in New Mumbai on New Year’s Day January 1, 2015 took stock of all these agitational actions and decided upon tasks for the future. The two major tasks decided upon were to strengthen local struggles on burning peasant issues and to speed up and complete the AIKS membership drive at the earliest.