November 22, 2015

AIKS to Organise Rubber Farmers’ Parliament Dharna on Dec 1

THE office bearers’ meeting of the All India Kisan Sabha was held in New Delhi on November 17, 2015. The meeting noted that the Narendra Modi-led BJP government at the centre has intensified the implementation of neo-liberal economic policies and systematically is curbing the rights of the workers, peasantry and agricultural workers. Anti-worker labour reforms, attacks on the MGNREGA, attacks on the peasantry in the form of withdrawal of subsidies, cutting down public investment, unremunerative prices, dismantling procurement and rampant land acquisition attempts through draconian Land Acquisition Ordinance, allowing FDI in agriculture and allied sectors have all been going on in a systematic manner. The meeting noted that the BJP-RSS and communal forces are using divisive tactics to divert attention from problems faced by the people. It noted with concern the severe damages caused by cyclone in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and expressed solidarity with the affected people. Large parts of India are also reeling under extreme drought-like conditions. According to reports more than 302 out of the 676 districts are facing such conditions in which successive crop losses are expected even in the Rabi season. No contingency plans have been put in place and farmers are not even getting appropriate compensation for crop losses. The meeting demanded that the government take steps on a war-footing to provide relief to farmers and agricultural workers. Cotton crop in more than 75 percent of the area in Punjab was wiped out due to the white-fly attack which has led to spontaneous protests by farmers including rail-roko for many days. The communal polarisation in Punjab almost simultaneously points to deliberate attempts to divert attention. In Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Maharashtra too, farmers are not receiving remunerative prices for cotton and even the stipulated number of purchasing centres are not being opened. The government has failed miserably in providing any relief to the affected farmers. The costly Bt Cotton has proved to be a failure against white-fly and other pests and also bollworm is increasingly found to be resistant to Bt Cotton. The meeting felt that seed monopolies that are raking in huge profits by selling these seeds should be held accountable for crop losses faced by farmers. In the context of galloping prices of pulses, it noted that even as farmers were not getting even the meagre minimum support prices for their produce consumers were forced to pay more than five times the MSP. Very clearly, large traders were raking in profits at the expense of the peasantry and the consumers. On an average, in India, in a year, about 24 million tonnes of pulses are consumed. In the last two months, around four million tonnes must have been consumed. Even if we take it that farmers received around Rs 40/Kg given the prevailing prices of popular variety of pulses namely tur/arhar, the traders were making a profit of about Rs 180/Kg. The fact that Adani-Wilmar, Tata, Birla, Reliance, ITC and other corporate agribusinesses are major players in this sector and the government had suddenly relaxed norms of stockholding point to a huge scam which needs to be probed. A massive scam in procurement of jute bags has been unearthed. All stakeholders – from mill owners, procuring agencies that obtain the sacks for packing food grains and government officials – are involved in the organised racket. As the biggest buyer, the government purchases about nine lakh tonnes of jute sacks to pack foodgrains. State government agencies procure bags worth about Rs 5,000 crore every year. The current government procurement rate is Rs 43 per bag, while in the open market it sells for Rs 15-20. It has been alleged that bags supplied to a state would find their way back to the mills, which sold them once again to the government. Similarly in procurement of paddy, irregularities amounting to thousands of crores is alleged. The meeting demanded a thorough probe to look into these matters and sought that strong deterrent action be taken against the guilty. After being forced to retreat from its decision to implement the draconian Land Acquisition Ordinance due to united resistance, the BJP-led central government is pressurising states to bring such legislations. Rajasthan, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Odisha, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and other states are facilitating corporate plunder of land and resources. In Odisha, Maharashtra and Manipur, tribal land rights are being changed drastically to remove any protection they had. AIKS will take initiative to unite the broadest possible sections and resist such moves. AIKS will also make efforts to unite the peasantry and the rural poor against the anti-people policies and defeat efforts to divide society along communal and casteist lines. A 10-day long campaign and parliament dharna on December 1 by rubber farmers, week-long campaign from December 3-10 by sugarcane farmers across the country by massive protests at sugar mills and district headquarters on December 15 have been decided. In February, massive protests in all state headquarters against anti-people policies and burning local issues will be held.