THE General Council of the All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU) met in New Delhi on November 4-5. The meeting was attended by 67 members from 14 states. It was presided over by AIAWU president S Thirunavukkarasu. Placing a report, AIAWU general secretary A Vijayaraghavan said the period since the last General Council meeting in Telangana in September, 2016, has seen growing attacks on the rural landless, agricultural workers and rural labourers, leading to suicides and hunger deaths. Demonetisation and the Goods and Services Tax (GST) with its crippling rates and tortuous mechanisms have brought farming, marketing, transport and petty trade in villages to a standstill.
The shocking thing is that the central government has managed to keep out of the GST structure petroleum products that are so important to the farming community. It appears to be simply a method to loot whatever little the farmer can save even when agriculture is hardly a paying proposition. The sectors of the economy that are labour intensive and reflect a large number of small owners and enterprises are being squeezed of resources to pay for the corporates and the rich who have looted the banks of several lakh crore rupees. Various measures of the central government have led to the richest one per cent of our population owning 58 per cent of the wealth of the country, while the poorest 30 per cent are living under starvation and galloping unemployment.
The stated objectives of demonetisation – tackling corruption, flushing out black money, eliminating fake Indian currency notes, and striking at the root of financing of terrorism and left-wing extremism – have failed. The government then talked about a digital and less-cash economy. Black money holders have mostly got away and terrorists and fake currency producers are back in business as is evident in the rising figures of security personnel being killed and clashes in different parts of the country. But the cost of looting the cash economy to fill up the coffers of the banks which gave loans liberally to those unwilling to repay and denying the same to farmers, agricultural labourers and the poor, have resulted in the destruction of the cash economy which was the backbone of our village society and the economic basis of whatever independent activity they could indulge in to keep themselves and their families alive as human beings. This was a brutal attack on our village democracy. It reflected a total lack of concern of the NDA government for the majority of the people who live in villages and earn a living through casual labour. The AIAWU has given a call to join the opposition protest on the first anniversary of demonetisation on November 8.
The union has called for exposing the government at the Centre which is controlled by Hindu extremist organisations such as the RSS, Hindu Mahasabha, VHP and various Senas of the Sangh Parivar like Abhinav Bharat, the Sanathan Sangathana. Gau rakshaks are mounting attacks on businesses and professions of Dalits and minorities such as meat trade and leather trade in various parts of the country in the name of cow protection.
It is the government that is creating the climate for such suppression of economic activities of the minorities and Dalits by illegally interfering with and extending the meaning of legislation unconnected to them under laws like the protection of cruelty to animals, the ban on cow slaughter, and declaring buffalo meat the same thing as beef. On the basis of such tinkering with the law, individual brutality is encouraged among criminals of the majority community and upper castes linked to the Sangh Parivar, which is then protected by the police and other government machinery. It is evident from a government legal attorney being forced to resign as he was supporting those accused of the murder of Muslim youth Junaid Khan in Haryana. In a similar case of the murder of Pehlu Khan in Rajasthan, the names of the murderers that were given in his dying declaration were dropped from those mentioned in the charges. Brutal attacks on Dalits in Una in Gujarat and in Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh have been given strength by politicians of the BJP, the local administration, the police, making it easier for them to get away from being punished by the courts.
Attacks on Dalits have increased from 32,477 in 2013 to 56,211 in 2015. The AIAWU observed that stiff resistance be planned and conducted to put an end to this form of majoritarian extremism. The first thing we should do is to defeat the BJP, which is responsible for this mess, in both Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat Assembly polls.
Placing the plan of action before the council, AIAWU joint secretary Suneet Chopra put forward a proposal for a campaign on December 20 to highlight issues of price rise, food security, poor implementation of MNREGA, atrocities against Dalits, minorities and women, and demanding land for the landless, homes for the homeless, equal wages for equal work, abolition of child labour, reopening of closed government schools in rural areas and pensions for the old and widows. The union further requested all state committees to concretely study the problems connected with the failure to implement MNREGA properly and the pinpointing of the agencies responsible for these lapses. These issues may be collectively discussed in gram sabhas and village, area and block level general bodies to choose delegates for a joint convention on MNREGA in February, 2018. After this, a nationwide movement will be launched. The union leadership felt that the condition of the rural masses will go from bad to worse unless a proper resistance is built in the next two months.