Vol. XL No. 40 October 02, 2016

AIAWU to Observe National Dalit Rights Protection Day on October 24

THE All India Agricultural Workers Union General Council which met at Nalgonda from September 20-22, 2016, called on its units to observe October 24 as a nationwide protest day against the mounting attacks and atrocities on dalits. The council deliberations observed that since the BJP government came into power the emboldened Hindutva Parivar mounted an unbridled attack on dalits and Muslim minorities. Over the last few years, there is an exponential rise in atrocities on dalits. Under the BJP’s rule in Gujarat and elsewhere, observing the traditional religious festivals is also being turned into an occasion to test one’s credentials on nationalism. They are having frenzied activity with predetermined meticulous plan. The BJP’s attitude towards the dalit’s dignity and security is evident from Una incident and also in the cow vigilantism. Unlike earlier, the livelihood and social security of dalits and Muslim minorities has also came under attack under the BJP’s dispensation. Despite the existence of the amended Protection of Civil Rights Act, security of dalits and adivasis in the BJP ruled states is much more fragile than at any other time. Most of the dalits and adivasis are agricultural workers who strive hard to eke out their day-to-day livelihood and in the vitiated environment their existence has come under severe threat. The deliberations from the states have reinforced this fact. In this context, the general council has given a call to the local units to observe October 24 as national Dalit Rights Protection Day.

The general council also observed that under the BJP dispensation, the livelihood opportunities of agricultural workers are coming under attack more intensely. The social security network built over the years as a result of sustained struggles by agricultural workers and rural poor is crumbling under the weight of neo-liberal economic reforms. The BJP government is implementing the neo-liberal policies with much more intensity. When the prices of essential commodities are increasing at jet speed, the drastic curtailment of social security network is pushing crores of agricultural workers into poverty. Although the parliament defeated its attempts to undo the gains of 2013 Land Acquisition Act, the central government in collaboration with the state governments is trying to implement the same provisions that were defeated by the parliament. The Food Security Act adopted by parliament in 2013 is still lying unimplemented. Similarly, through several executive directions through the ministry of rural development, the government is attempting to undermine the MNREGA, the sole economic security mechanism available for agricultural workers. The government also decided to reduce the number of social security schemes and programmes from 144 to a mere 33 in the name of ensuring efficient delivery of benefits to the poor. A number of state committees reported the step-motherly attitude of the state governments in releasing wage dues under MNREGA. The BJP ruled state governments are in the forefront in dismantling the available food security network, PDS and does not care for implementing the Food Security Act. Thus the economic and social security of agricultural workers is under all round attack in the BJP’s regime.

Against this backdrop, the AIAWU general council has decided to a protest week from December 10-17, highlighting the problems of social security of agricultural workers. During this week, the units of AIAWU from village to district level will organise series of protest actions and demonstrations highlighting the issues culminating in marches to assemblies and collectorates. The general council also gave a call to mobilise agricultural workers in the wage and employment conventions from village to state level which will be culminated in a nationwide protest action before the parliament in the month of February 2017 during the budget sessions. The National Wage and Employment convention will be conducted in the month of January 2017.

While placing the work report, Vijay Raghavan, general secretary said that the agricultural workers are facing the double attack on their livelihood. The first attack is from neo-liberal policies where as the second attack emanates from the fascistic approach of RSS towards the rights of downtrodden sections of society. More than half of the agricultural workers are from dalit communities and the RSS’ attack is not only on the sources of their livelihood but also on the social security apparatus under implementation in the country. This social security system achieved after hard fought struggles is under constant attack during the period since last 25 years of neo-liberal economic reform policies. Several crores of agricultural workers are at loss due to discontinuation of a number of centrally sponsored schemes. 

The attack on livelihood is coupled with high price rise, the general secretary told the council. With the lack of rural employment opportunities due to sustained drought, the high prices led to loss of nutritional intake capacity of the poor, particularly agricultural workers. The skyrocketing prices of pulses effected their protein intake. The BJP government at the centre is unleashing a series of attacks on rural poor. The general secretary also highlighted the duplicity of the NDA government’s commitment towards the MNREGA. He observed that under the pressure from civil society and Supreme Court, though the ministry of rural development issued notifications enhancing minimum work days from 100 to 150 in drought affected blocks, there was no corresponding increase of funds to make sure that this directive is implemented. Thus, only 1.8 percent of total job card holders who worked under MNREGA during 2015-16 got 150 days work, thus denying the right to work for 150 days for the remaining 98 percent. This is how the government has treated the Supreme Court direction with impunity.

The general secretary also highlighted the sustained land struggles waged by Andhra Pradesh and Telangana units against the mischievous land acquisition policies adopted by the respective state governments. He called on the other states to study the achievements of these two movements to respond appropriately when the need arises in their states.

Hinting at the organisational weaknesses, the general secretary highlighted the role of village committees which are the live links of organisation with the masses. He also stressed that membership enrolment is the first step of establishing the contact with the masses and drawing their attention towards the organisation and its activities. In this light, he drew the attention of states to restructure their membership enrolment process so that it will be held in a time bound manner. He also highlighted some initiates from the all India center such as conducting two days training camp and workshop for the leading cadres from Hindi speaking states as well as commissioning a MNREGA survey and proposed white paper on implementation of the programme and a compilation of Supreme Court judgments on draught relief measures and assured that the all India interventions will increase in the coming period. 86 members from 14 states attended the meeting. And 17 members participated in discussions on the interventions in their respective states.

The council meeting began with flag hoisting by AIAWU all India president S Tirunavukkarasu on 21st morning in Nalgonda. Along with Tirunavukkarasu, Suneet Chopra and B Venkat were part of the presidium. J Ranga Reddy welcomed the general council members on behalf of the reception committee and A Vijayaraghavan general secretary, placed the general secretary’s report. Suneet Chopra presented the future tasks. On the occasion of the general council meeting, the Nalgonda district Agricultural Workers Union organised 10th anniversary celebrations of MNREGA in which thousands of MNREGA workers participated despite adverse climatic conditions and floods.