January 11, 2015

Punjab Holds State Conference of Agricultural Workers Union

Gurmesh Singh

THE 28th state conference of the Punjab Agriculture Worker’s Union was held from December 11-13, 2014 in Khankhana village in Jalandhar district to commemorate the first conference of the agricultural workers of Punjab that took place in 1954 from December 11-13, during which the Dehati Mazdoor Sabha was formed with Comrade Darshan Singh Jhabbal elected as the president and Comrade Pundit Bakshi Ram as general secretary. The first day of conference was observed with great fervour and the entire town of Banga and the road to Khankhana village was decorated with red flags and the venue of the rally was also decorated with flags and banners. In the public rally, the chief guest was the vice presidentof the union, Bhanulal Saha, who is also the finance minister of the Left Front government of Tripura. He inspired the people by highlighting the work undertaken by Tripura under MGNREGA, increasing the number of villages where it operates and providing employment for 88 days which is the highest in India. He condemned the attitude of the NDA government led by Narendra Modi for decreasing the amount allocated for implementing the Act in Tripura from Rs 1400 crores the year before to Rs 650 crores now. It was obvious that this would affect the implementation of the Act adversely. He also pointed out that the government of Tripura had provided benefits under BPL to 2.96 lakh families where rice is sold at Rs 2 per Kg and provided a further 1.61 lakh families with APL cards where rice is sold at Rs 6.15 per Kg. Under the scheme the state government has spent Rs 35 crores each year for distributing edible oils and Rs 40 crores for pulses. Apart from these, 50,000 bicycles were distributed to girl students and Rs 80 crore was provided to the poor for building houses. He also warned the central government against hindering good measures to help the poor and called on agricultural workers and rural poor to resist these moves and defend their rights. The rally was also addressed by Suneet Chopra, joint secretary of All India Agricultural Workers Union, Charan Singh Virdi, CPI(M) state secretary, Gurmesh Singh, vice president of AIAWU, Ragunath Singh, CITU state secretary, Ram Singh Nurpuri and Vasdev Jamsher, state vice presidents. The rally was presided over by Bhoop Chand Channo, state president of Punjab AIAWU. This was followed by hoisting the union flag by the state president at Dhanpat Rai Nagar, the venue of the conference which was attended by 155 delegates of a total of 163 elected. The presidium consisted of Bhoop Chand Channo, Ram Singh Nurpuri and Surinder Kaur Chumbar. A condolence resolution was passed remembering those who have passed away in the intervening period. Kuldeep Jhinger delivered the welcome speech highlighting the heroic history of Khankhana and the neighbouring area. Inaugurating the conference Suneet Chopra stressed the importance of fighting for human rights in a society that did not accept social equality that has become our right since independence. He highlighted incidents like the murder of Shambuka in the Ramayan for daring to meditate and the cutting off the thumb of Eklavya in the Mahabharata for daring to learn the art of archery. It was an irony that in modern India the man who had got this dalit to cut his thumb as Gurudakshina is honoured when teachers are given the Dronacharya award for being good and dutiful teachers. Such insensitivity to dalit rights should remind us how important it is for union like ours to fight for social equality in order to successfully build class unity in struggle. This unity was a matter of life and death in the present condition of globalisation, privatisation and liberalisation that had driven lakhs of peasants and rural poor to suicide, penury and the sale of everything they owned, especially livestock, house-sites and land. There was no end to the issues we could take up to better their condition as it was among the worst in our society. So no time could be wasted to save their lives and livelihood. In this respect the union had initiated struggles against casteism, the oppression of women, wages, house-sites, land and the public distribution system and other amenities. In the present situation too, the attacks of the present government on MGNREGA, food security, house-sites and subsidies were calling out for resistance. He congratulated the success of enrolling nearly 2,00,000 members and launching many successful struggles in different parts of the state. He called on them to carry forward their struggles and inspire the country as the revolutionaries of Punjab had done in the struggle for independence. The conference was then addressed by Gurnam Singh Daud, secretary of the Dehati Mazdoor Sabha and Gulzar Singh Goria, secretary of Punjab Dehati Mazdoor Sabha (BKMU) who greeted the conference on behalf of their organisations. The conference was greeted by Vijay Mishra, CITU state president, Sukhwinder Singh Sekhon, AIKS state secretary, Balbir Singh Jadla, AIKS state vice president and Surinder Singh Khiva, DYFI state president. The next day Gurmesh Singh, state secretary of the union presented the report of activities, protests and agitations conducted by the union in the last two years, highlighting not only the successes of the organisation but also its weakness in conducting regular work among the masses in the villages. 24 delegates put forward constructive view and suggestions reflecting the acceptance of the report put before them. The secretary then replied to the issues they had raised and the report was accepted unanimously. On December 12, 2014, A Vijayaraghavan, AIAWU general secretary addressed a seminar on the status of dalits and their problems in the present situation at Shaheed Harbans Singh Bika Yadgar Hall. He explained how “under the new economic policies, the problems of the scheduled castes have become more intense as they added financial constraints and limitations to the life of dalits who have been suffering constraints and discrimination for long. In spite of the successful struggle and agitation in the 20th century against caste discrimination, social reformers have failed to raise the important issue of land reforms. Even today the capitalist and feudal system have miserably failed to eradicate caste based problems and complications. The caste system is a curse for society as privatisation has closed the doors to reservations even in the public sector units that have been privatised. So it is the need of the hour to awaken the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes to join the movements of class struggles”. Subsequently in the evening a cultural function was organised in Khankhana village in which issues like drug addiction, frustrations of youth and the need to defeat them by social movements was highlighted. In the closing session, Suneet Chopra announced a panel of 55 members of the state working committee, of whom 43 were elected with 12 seats vacant for future expansion. Ram Singh Nurpuri was unanimously elected as president and Gurmesh Singh as secretary. Seven vice presidents elected were Vasdev Jamsher, Mool Chand Sarhali, Lal Singh Dhanola, Kuldeep Singh Jhingar, Hari Ram Chak Sherewal, Pal Singh Jamarai; and five joint secretaries elected were Baldev Singh Surpuri, Satpal Banur, Bhajan Singh Samrala, Kartar Singh Mehroli and Natha Singh Fazilka. The conference ended with the vote of thanks for the organisers and invitees.