May 10, 2015

Eleven Questions to the Prime Minster

The following is the text of an open letter to the prime minister, written by Hannan Mollah, general secretary of All India Kisan Sabha on April 25, on agrarian distress, farm suicides and land bill. IN the context of the suicide of Gajendra Singh Kalyanvat, a farmer from Rajasthan at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi in the background of a countrywide protest against the Land Acquisition Ordinance and your response in the parliament of having an open mind to consider any suggestion on the need of collective resolve to end agrarian distress and farmer’s suicides, on behalf of the All India Kisan Sabha, I would like to place the following eleven questions expecting your response. I hope these questions will help you to introspect how the policies implemented by your government and those previous governments were responsible for the precarious situation of the peasantry in India today. 1. Why did your government during the last ten months not implement the promise in the BJP manifesto of providing minimum support price to agricultural produce equal to 50 per cent in addition to cost of production, since low price of farm produces is a major reason for indebtedness and agrarian distress? 2. Why did your government slash the allocation to MGNREGA and reduce the implementation of the Act to 2500 most backward blocks instead of implementing all over the country and linking it with agriculture as promised in the BJP manifesto? 3. Why did your government not reduce the interest rate and debt burden of the farmers as promised in the BJP manifesto and not ready to announce debt waiver to peasant households in the context of unprecedented crop loss due to untimely rain and drought? 4. Why did the union budget 2015-16 announce facilitation for foreign direct investment into the agricultural sector to promote farm gate purchase instead of providing procurement and market infrastructure by integrating peasant-worker cooperatives and public sector enterprises to ensure a remunerative price for agricultural produce? 5. Why did your government not give priority to projects to support the peasantry to establish crop-wise value addition and processing industries under peasant-worker cooperatives with the support of financial institutions and government agencies in order to overcome exploitation by corporate forces and middlemen? 6. Why did the union rail budget 2015-16 hike the freight rates for urea by 10 per cent which causes further increase in input costs, thus intensifies distress of peasantry who are already under miseries? 7. Why has your government been insisting through the disgraceful Land Acquisition Ordinance to overthrow the provision in the 2013 Act that requires consent of 80 per cent of land owners for private projects and consent of 70 per cent of land owners for PPP projects? 8. Why has your government been persisting on the removal of restrictions on acquisition of multi crop land and fertile land through provisions in the 2013 LARR Act in keeping with the importance of safeguarding food security of the nation and protecting peasant agriculture which was adopted unanimously in the parliament? 9. Why did your government coerce the provision in the ordinance to change the term ‘private company’ to ‘private entity’ so that acquisition can be used wantonly for any private entity that requires land for its use, thus reduce the government to the status of a mere real estate agency for corporate forces? 10. Why did your government want to remove the provision for social impact assessment in the 2013 LARR Act and expand the definition of industrial corridors to include land up to one kilometre on either side of the road or railway line for such an industrial corridor which is a violation of the condition contained in the SIA that only the bare minimum extent of land should be acquired for a project? 11. Why did your government which is infamous for land acquisition conspicuously ignore the crucial issue of land reform and redistribution of agriculture land to the landless peasants and agriculture workers? What is your plan to give house-site land to six crore homeless people? Why the Forest Rights Act is not sincerely implemented and demand of their legitimate right on land and forest not accepted? On behalf of the All India Kisan Sabha which is the largest organised movement of the peasantry with 1,60,10,357 membership all over the country, I would request you to immediately withdraw the Land Acquisition Bill 2015 and reverse the anti-farmer, neo-liberal policies pursued by your government which aggravate the agrarian distress and farmers’ suicide.