SKM Declares Mission UP-Uttarakhand, Kisan Sansad Enters Third Week
SAMYUKTA Kisan Morcha (SKM) launched Mission Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand on July 26 at a press conference in Lucknow. It was announced that the Mission will formally begin with a massive rally in Muzaffarnagar on September 5, 2021. It was also announced that the current farmers' movement will be taken to every village of the two states, to strengthen it the way it has happened in Punjab and Haryana. Through this, corporate control of our food and farming systems will be challenged from all corners of these states also. In this Mission, the anti-farmer BJP and its allies will be resisted and boycotted everywhere, like their leaders are facing boycotts and protests in Punjab and Haryana.
The venerated land of Swami SahajanandSaraswati, Chowdhary Charan Singh and Chowdhary Mahendra Singh Tikait will now take up the fight of protecting India's farming and farmers from corporations and their political brokers. SKM called upon farmer unions and other progressive forces to join hands, and as part of the Mission, free up all toll plazas in the states. Protests would be organised at Ambani and Adani entities in the two states. For giving shape and effect to this Mission, there will be meetings, dialogues, yatras and rallies organised throughout the two states in the months ahead. As is well known, state assembly elections are due in Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and other smaller states early next year.
The choice of Muzaffarnagar for the opening rally of the SKM is significant. For it was Muzaffarnagar in 2013 that saw bloody communal riots that were instigated by the BJP-RSS, and unfortunately supported by some other forces who should have known better. It was these riots that created the communal polarisation that swept the BJP to power in 2014 at the centre and in 2017 in the state. However, the strength of the farmers’ struggle and the Covid-related and other numerous crimes of the Modi-Yogi-led BJP governments are changing the picture in Uttar Pradesh today. The farmers’ class struggle, as outlined in these columns earlier, is once again cementing communal harmony in Western Uttar Pradesh and elsewhere.
KISAN SANSAD ENTERS THIRD WEEK
The SKM-organised parallel Kisan Sansad at Jantar Mantar in Delhi entered the third week, with 200 farmers from different organisations participating in it daily. The rich debates in the Farmers' parliament last week were on the Contract Farming Act, the Electricity Amendment Bill and the Stubble Burning Bill. Rains have been lashing the protest sites where farmers are putting up their resistance. Farmers are continuing with their daily routine in these 'protest townships' cheerfully and without complaints. In the Kisan Sansad at Jantar Mantar too, proceedings were not allowed to be disrupted by the rain and even floods, with members keeping to the time line and discussing the topic in detail. Lunch is being eaten happily, squatting on wet pavements at this Sansad.
RESOLUTION AGAINST CONTRACT FARMING ACT
Several members who participated in the debate on July 28 and 29, shared their own personal experiences with contract farming. Experiences included rejection of produce by companies under one garb or the other after an entire season's toil by the farmer. They talked about how the central law is about facilitating corporate farming and resource-grabbing. The potential threat to food security from contract farming was highlighted, in addition to environmental degradation. Members also pointed out the cruel joke on farmers, and the irony in the very name of the legislation ("price assurance"), when it was anything but that.
On July 29, after a two-day debate, the Kisan Sansad unanimously rejected the "Farmer (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020" as being unconstitutional, anti-farmer and pro-corporate, and declared that the Act stands repealed. It was resolved that the Act is meant for resource grabbing by corporates from farmers, and was in fact brought in to promote corporate farming. The operative part of the detailed Resolution adopted by the Kisan Sansad was as follows:
“A. The Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020 (No 20 of 2020) should be immediately repealed by the Parliament; the Farmers' Parliament repeals this Act, and asks the Parliament to do the same.
“B. Full protection is offered to uphold farmers’ interests (economic viability, environmental sustainability and social equity) in all marketing options that exist for them such that any contract farming option is only based on prior informed consent, on par with other options available to a farmer and not on coercion. Further, strong regulation should be put in place at the state level which protects the small farmers from predatory contract farming, which fixes clear accountability and liability on the companies which enter into contract farming arrangements, which stipulates that the companies should provide at least the Minimum Support Price to the farmers, which ensures access to justice for the farmers and speedy resolution of cases where farmers face losses due to exploitative practices of the companies, and which removes any provisions which enable corporate takeover of the farmers' lands.”
RESOLUTION AGAINST ELECTRICITY AMENDMENT BILL
On July 30 and August 2, in the Kisan Sansad the debate and proceedings were on the Electricity Amendment Bill. This is listed for introduction in the monsoon session of the Parliament. The Kisan Sansad expressed shock and dismay at the government reneging on its commitment on December 30, 2020 to farmer leaders that the Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 will be withdrawn. The Kisan Sansad concluded that the Electricity Amendment Bill, like other legislations being thrust by the Modi government on farmers and other common citizens in an unconstitutional and undemocratic way, is basically to facilitate the entry and profitable operations of corporations into distribution of electricity. The Bill seeks to thrust a national tariff policy, violating the authority of state governments in determining their own policies.
The operative part of the detailed resolution adopted by the Kisan Sansad was as follows:
A. The Electricity Amendment Bill 2020 or 2021 is withdrawn immediately;
B. The government of India is directed not to table this Bill or any other Bill containing similar provisions in this or subsequent sessions of the Parliament;
C. Electricity being a basic resource for rural production and processing including by farmers, cottage industries, for health, education and other civic services, the policy should be to provide free, high quality, regular supply of electricity, to enable rural people and farmers to benefit from the same.
RESOLUTION AGAINST STRAW BURNING BILL
In the Lok Sabha on August 3, "The Commission for Air Quality Management in National Capital Region and Adjoining Areas Bill, 2021" was introduced amid continued protests by Opposition MPs on various issues including the black farm laws. While Section 14 related to penalties says that "the provisions of this section shall not apply to any farmer for causing air pollution by stubble burning or mismanagement of agricultural residue", there is a new provision introduced insidiously by the government. A new Section 15 titled misleadingly as "Environmental Compensation" says that "the Commission may impose and collect Environmental Compensation from farmers causing air pollution by stubble burning, at such rate and in such manner, as may be prescribed". SKM warned the government against playing games with protesting farmers, and reneging on commitments already made. The Kisan Sansad the same day discussed the issue of straw burning, and efforts by the government to criminalise farmers on some pretext or the other. The operative part of the detailed Resolution adopted by the Kisan Sansad was as follows:
A. Delete the penal provisions on farmers in the “Commission on Air Quality Management in NCR and Adjoining Areas” Bill 2021, and directs the Indian Parliament also to do so;
B. Enact a new law to make MSP a legally guaranteed right of all farmers for all crops, and directs the Indian Parliament to do so;
C. Call upon the union government to make all necessary financial arrangements to incentivise farmers to take up sustainable practices, and for state governments to sincerely address straw burning issue. This should include consultative and participatory processes with farmers on all aspects including scientific studies.
AUTHORITARIAN BJP STANCE IN PARLIAMENT CONDEMNED
While the Kisan Sansad continued in its disciplined manner of detailed deliberations and debates, the Parliament of India presented a contrasting picture, but with the theme of the farmers’ struggle reflected there too. The ‘question hour’ reflected the concerns of farmers and the current struggle. There were also placards carried into the house and displayed. There were repeated adjournments.
A delegation of leaders from various political parties met with the President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, seeking his intervention to form a joint parliamentary panel to look into the matter of hundreds of deaths during the farmers' struggle. These parties are contesting the government of India's claim that it has no record of any farmer deaths in the ongoing movement, and are demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee probe into the deaths. The parties also reportedly appealed to the president to ask the centre to allow discussion on the farm laws in the Parliament. While seven opposition parties sent a joint letter to the President of India on important matters including Farm Laws, 14 parties held a joint meeting to plan together their next course of action, even as MPs have been giving adjournment motion notices. The CPI(M) was a part of all these meetings and its MPs constantly raised the issues of the Farm Laws, Labour Codes, Pegasus spying and other peoples’ issues in both houses of Parliament.
It is being reported that the Parliament functioned for only 18 out of 107 hours because the opposition's legitimate demand that pressing issues of common citizens and issues related to protection of Indian democracy were not met, despite numerous adjournment motion notices put in. This is clearly the case of an egoistic and adamant BJP-RSS government continuing with its undemocratic functioning, squandering away crores of rupees in not listening to the opposition, and not allowing them to raise important matters.Twelve bills were passed in the current session of the Parliament without any discussion. This kind of bulldozing of parliamentary procedure indicates the authoritarian tendency of this government.
On July 31, the martyrdom day of Shaheed Udham Singh was marked as 'anti-imperialist day', with respect. In several morchas, revolutionary songs provided inspiration to the protestors, and speakers highlighted the life, struggle and sacrifice of Shaheed Udham Singh in India's independence struggle, and the struggle against imperialism and human plunder.
MASSIVE COUNTRYWIDE PREPARATIONS ON FOR AUGUST 9
Lastly, massive countrywide preparations are on by different class and massorganisations like the CITU, AIKS, AIAWU, AIDWA, DYFI and SFI to make a great success of the countrywide struggle on August 9, the anniversary of Quit India Day. The central trade unions and many other organisations have supported this call. The demand charter is centered around several burning demands of the working people of India.