THE 9th conference of the AIAWU concluded successfully from January 1 to 3, 2020 at Kannur Kerala, with a call to intensify the struggle of agricultural workers on the issues of employment, land, and wage and against social oppression.
Conference elected 147 members general council. A working committee was elected with 58 members. A Vijayaraghavan was elected as president and B Venkat as general secretary. The conference was attended by the 973 delegates from 14 states with 160 women delegates.
The conference commenced with the flag hoisting by Tirunavukkarassu, president of AIAWU. Apart from other committees, a presidium consisting of S Thirnavukkarasu, Bhanulal Saha, B Raghwan, Gurmesh Singh, B Venkat, Amiya Patra and L Balan was elected at the beginning of the conference. Condolence resolution was placed by B Venkat and M V Govindhan, state president KSKTU delivered the welcome address. S Ramachandran Pillai, former president of AIKS inaugurated the conference. He underlined the growing inequality of wealth between a powerful one per cent of India’s population who own 74 per cent of assets and the 99 per cent of Indian population who have just 26 per cent with them. This inequality has further accentuated in the BJP rule, he said. It is a major result of the neo-liberal policies of the Indian government of enriching the rich and making the poor, poorer, notably from 2014 onwards. He mentioned that the world capitalism is in deep economic crises which are resulting in low GDP growth, huge unemployment, price rise, agrarian crises and weakening of social welfare state. Whenever capitalism is in crises it leads to a rightward shift. The same thing is happening in the present world order where rightist governments are being formed in different countries of the world including the USA and India. These rightist governments are implementing the policies of division on communal grounds and are creating an illusion among masses taking them away from their real economic issues. The same trend is seen in India, which should be resisted through united mobilisation on the issues of common masses.
GENERAL SECRETARY’S REPORT
A Vijaraghwan placed the general secretary’s report, which underlined the changing situation of rural India where the impact of agrarian crises can be seen in the rise in population of landless labour. There is a decrease of nine million cultivators, while the number of agricultural workers increased by 30 million from 2001 to 2011. The increase in the number of agricultural workers over the cultivators means the dependence on wage labour is more than that on land. Along with the increased number of agricultural workers, the employment opportunities in cultivation are not growing. Today, landless labour has increased to over half the village population, unemployment has reached its highest in 50 years, with farm labour being left only 52 to 38 days work in the year from over 100 days in 1990.
The report also analysed the goals set by the last all Indian conference held in Warangal, Telangana. Union has expanded to new areas and states after the last conference. Presently we have an organisation in 16 states. The organisation has formed unit in West Bengal. This has been a major advance in this period, despite facing a serious challenge from rightwing elements.
The report highlighted that our organization successfully raised the issues of livelihood, land, housing sites, and minimum wages and for implementation of social welfare schemes. Our struggle for implementation of MNREGA in almost all states has ensured employment opportunities in rural India, despite limited allocations of funds by the Modi led central government for MNREGA. During all these years our organisation consistently fought against social oppression in rural India. Organisation braved all kinds of repression and police actions during these struggles. There is an increase of membership, bringing more rural masses under our organisation as well as more confidence of masses in our organisation.
The report self critically identifies certain limitations also. One of these is the expansion of the organisation in the Hindi speaking areas. The organisation has expanded base in these areas with extra efforts but expected results are not there. We have stated in the report that our organisation was consistently fighting against social oppression including caste violence but much more efforts are required given an increase in violence against dalits, tribals, minorities and women. Through this conference, we resolved to intensify the struggle against all kinds of atrocities against the vulnerable sections of society.
DISCUSSION ON REPORT
Thirty-five comrades from the states participated in the discussion on the general secretary’s report. While commenting on the report, discussants also shared their experiences of the ground-level reality of rural India. In the times of huge unemployment MGNREGA, which offers the legal right to get work on demand is not implemented effectively in most of the states. However, while no less than 13 crore rural labourers have applied for work reflecting its need, the central government has failed not only to provide adequate work at adequate wages but has failed even to pay wages in time to those living on the verge of starvation.
The second aspect is the continuous weakening of PDS. India has been worst affected concerning most indicators of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition. India ranked 76th in 113 countries assessed by the Global Food Security Index (GFSI) last year, based on four parameters- affordability, availability, quality, safety and natural resources. The decline in consumption of the rural population is noticed when in the same period, the production of rice in India increased by eight per cent between 2011-12 and 2017-18. In the same period, production of wheat increased by 5.3 per cent from 949 lakh tonnes to 999 lakh tonnes. Total cereals production increased by seven per cent in this period. Therefore, issues like hunger, availability of food and poverty have increasingly taken an important place in the lives of agricultural labourers who constitute the core of the rural poor.
Almost all the delegates shared their experience of struggle. They underlined how the states governments are repressing the progressive struggles. Peoples coming on the streets to demand their basic issues are met with the brutal repression of police, fake cases and imprisonment. The repression is much more in the BJP ruled states. Our comrades have braved this state crackdown in states of Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh where BJP was or in state government.
The conference adopted nine resolutions which are as follows; comprehensive central legislation for agricultural workers, on atrocities against dalits, implement the FRA in its true spirit and in a time-bound manner, on right-wing attempts to destabilise the LDF government of Kerala, on MNREGA, on the demands of scheme workers, on food security and PDS, against CAA-NRC-NPR and violence against women. Conference also adopted a resolution to support the general strike call given by the 10 central trade unions and independent federations on January 8, 2020. Following leaders of fraternal organisations greeted the Conference; Hannan Mollah, general secretary, AIKS, Chanderpillai, secretary CITU, Radhkrishanan, president DSMM, Mohammad Riyaz, president DYFI, P K Shrimati from AIDWA and Nitheesh Naryanan from SFI.
A vibrant mammoth public meeting was organised on the concluding day of the conference at the new collectorate ground of Kannur. Thousands of agricultural workers poured in from different parts of the district raising slogans and holding a red flag. The ground fell small for this huge crowd and people were sitting on roads outside the ground. Pinarayi Vijayan, chief minister of Kerala was the main speaker of the rally. The enthusiasm and discipline of the people in the rally were amazing as there was no police force to manage.
The conference concluded that the ruling dispensation under BJP leadership is destined to dismantle the constitutional foundations of our ‘Idea of India’. The Sangh Parivar government headed by BJP is vociferously working to transform our multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic secular Indian society into fascistic mono-religious, monolingual and monocultural Hindutva Rashtra. The state of affairs is challenging. There is a constant division of working population on religious lines; giving the issues of livelihood a communal fundamentalist shade leading to never-ending marginalisation of agricultural workers, thus snatching away their livelihoods. There are a restricting social space and activity and constant consolidation of the authority and grip of the rural bourgeoisie and capitalist farming community over the means of livelihood. In such a state of affairs, the only hope they have is to build a powerful rural movement to defend their already eroded rights with struggles. This is not an easy task to achieve in a society oppressed by caste, communal and gender divisions. To overcome them we need deep contact with the most exploited and oppressed in our villages, give them the confidence they need to fight for their fundamental rights, social security and justice as human beings and citizens. This needs to be combated on a war footing by comprehensively strengthening of our organisational machinery and equipping it in such a manner to make it ready to take on communal divisive class enemies. For this, the only choice left before us is reaching out the general masses.
1. State-level conventions and struggles must be launched on the demand for the immediate implementation of the Food Security Act.
2. Campaign on 250 days of work in rural India with Rs 600 per day wage.
3. Wage struggles to be launched to ensure that wages are not allowed to fall below the level of a minimum wage in the state.
4. Launch struggle for Comprehensive Central Legislation for Agricultural Labour.
5. Proceed with the ongoing struggle for full implementation of the Forest Rights Act and land to dalits, tribals and poor of OBC.
6. A national convention of women agricultural labourers.
7. State-level conventions on migration and its related issues of migrant workers.
8. Initiative for joint struggles of workers, peasants and agricultural labour on common demands that can be achieved through struggles to unite the broadest sections of the masses.
9. Struggle on the demands of affordable public education and health in rural India.
10. Jathas starting from three regions, the North, the East, and the South, concluding in either Telangana or Andhra Pradesh.