November 26, 2023

Kisan-Mazdur Mahapadav on Nov 26-28

IN a press statement released on November 22, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) issued an appeal to all farmers, urging them to participate in large numbers in the countrywide Kisan-Mazdur Mahapadav being held November 26 to 28 in state capitals. The mahapadav is held to protest against the central government's failure to fulfill the promises made to the farmers in the December 2021 agreement, specifically guaranteeing a Minimum Support Price (MSP) of C2+50 per cent with assured procurement.

The Government of India is continuing with its pro-corporate policies, favouring both Indian and foreign companies in controlling agriculture and rural trade. These policies enable them to sell expensive inputs, the purchase of crops at extremely low prices, the establishment of the food processing industry, and the establishment of a monopoly over the food market. This has led to peasants experiencing impoverishment, facing expulsion from their land, and being relegated to cheap labour.

Although paddy procurement has commenced, the procurement facilities are inadequate, and middlemen exert significant influence, compelling peasants to sell their paddy at prices Rs 500/q, way below the MSP. SKM strongly condemns the control exercised by middlemen and calls for the establishment of more paddy procurement centres with guaranteed procurement from small farmers, and an end to the difficult online registration conditions that contribute to the flourishing of middlemen.

The high MSP and other assurances made by the BJP and Congress in the election campaigns of Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, and Telangana underscore the severe crisis faced by farmers, validating the correctness of SKM's demands. This crisis is indicative of rural distress, impacting 68.9 per cent of India's population. The BJP, in its electoral promises, committed to an MSP of Rs 2700 per quintal for wheat in Madhya Pradesh, along with an additional bonus in Rajasthan. On the other hand, the Congress pledged Rs 2600 in Madhya Pradesh and proposed an MSP linked to the price index in Rajasthan, coupled with legislation for assured procurement. However, the declared MSP is only Rs 2275, falling short of SKM's demand of Rs 2800 per quintal.

The contrast is even more pronounced for Paddy. The BJP assured Rs 3100 per quintal in Madhya Pradesh, while the Congress announced a bonus of Rs 500 in Telangana, surpassing the Rs 2183 declared by the Modi government.

SKM has consistently demanded the registration of sharecroppers with a government guarantee of schemes for them. The Congress, in response, has pledged help of Rs 15,000 per acre annually to farmers and Rs 12,000 per acre to sharecroppers, while the BRS has promised Rs 16,000 per acre. This emphasizes the dire situation of farmers grappling with the escalating costs of inputs.

Phosphatic fertilizer prices have witnessed a 50 per cent increase imposed by the government, while urea is openly being sold on the black market at double the official price of Rs 270 per 45 kg. The BJP government appears particularly committed to ruin farmers, as no BJP-led government provides any financial assistance to farmers for input costs.

The Central aid of Rs 6000 per year is marred by a 50 to 70 per cent shortfall in implementation.

In response to farmers' demands for the immediate withdrawal of the New Electricity Bill 2022, the Government of India, along with states, is increasing electricity tariffs to nearly double the previous rates. Rural residents are being compelled to install prepaid meters. These are like lagaan , the levies imposed by the British through erstwhile feudal landlords on Indian peasantry. Power connections for tube wells are being disconnected, and farmers are being charged with criminal offenses.

SKM has consistently demanded for the provision of 300 units of free electricity for all rural households and rural traders, as well as free electricity for tube wells. While the Congress has promised 200 units in its election pledges, both the BJP and Congress have committed to reducing the cost of cooking gas to about half the current rate. This further underscores the justification for SKM's demands.

In addition to MSP and assured procurement for all crops, SKM emphasizes the need for a proper food guarantee for the people, particularly with the decline in food security. The Government of India’s statistics reveal an increase in undernourishment from 14 per cent in 2014-16 to 16.6 per cent among children under 5 years old in 2022-23. India's Global Hunger Index ranking at 111 out of 125 countries is alarming, and it continues to decline. SKM advocates for the distribution of 14.5 kg of cereals, including pulses, per person under the Public Distribution System (PDS). Achieving this goal requires improvements in agricultural production and procurement.

The Modi government has failed to deliver justice in the case of murder of four farmers and a press reporter in Lakhimpur, and the legal process has not ensured justice. A person accused of murder remains in a key position as the Minister of State for Home. Additionally, false cases lodged against farmers have not been withdrawn.

Samyukt Kisan Morcha appeals to all farmers and democratic forces to join the mahapadav in state capitals to raise these critical issues facing India's farmers and to build a renewed movement for the payment of MSP at C2+50 per cent and other pressing concerns.