Friday, December 28, 2012

On government's betrayal of wheat farmers

All India Kisan Sabha strongly condemns the insensitive decision of the Congress-led UPA Government to only marginally increase the Minimum Support Price (MSP) of wheat to Rs.1350/- per quintal. AIKS had demanded not less than Rs.1800/- per quintal taking into account the increased costs of production due to rising input costs. The weighted MSP recommended by States was also Rs.1868/- per quintal. The increase recommended by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) is only 5 percent above last year’s MSP. In the same period there has been a manifold increase in prices of fertilisers, irrigation costs and prices of other inputs. Fertiliser prices have risen by around 50 percent, diesel prices by over 45 percent and also labour by at least 20 percent. These have not been factored in while determining the MSP. The decision after an undue delay and more than two months into the Rabi sowing season is not going to incentivise the wheat farmers.

 The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) and the Government are making a mockery of the plight of the farmers by acting in tandem with the former first seeking a freeze on the MSP and the latter announcing a marginal increase by apparently turning down the proposal and seeking to portray itself as farmer-friendly. Notably the CACP in its Price Policy for Rabi Crops for marketing season 2012-13 had recommended Rs.1350/- per quintal based on rising costs of cultivation. The Government at that time announced an MSP of Rs.1285/- per quintal. A full 12 months after that the CACP called for freezing prices at Rs.1285/- per quintal for marketing season 2013-14. The Government has now accepted the CACP’s recommendation originally made for 2012-13.

Already the recommendation of the CACP to freeze the MSP at the last year’s rate of Rs.1285/- per quintal and the undue delay of the Government in announcing the MSP has had an adverse impact on the area sown which is lower than what it was for the corresponding period last year. Only 25.3 million hectares of wheat has been sown compared to 25.7 million hectares in the same period last year. The low MSP will lead to a further drop in area under wheat in coming days.

The CACP recommendation of “liquidating” stocks to “create space for the new harvest” has been accepted by the Government which has allowed an additional export of 2.5 million tonnes which will bring the total quantity of export from government stock to 4.5 million tonnes. This move comes at a time millions of poor in India are living in a situation of extreme hunger and malnutrition. AIKS demands immediate withdrawal of this retrograde decision and calls upon the Government to distribute wheat through the Public Distribution System.

AIKS calls upon all units to observe protests against the betrayal of wheat farmers by the Government and resist the retrograde announcement.

S.Ramachandran Pillai

K.Varadha Rajan
General Secretary

Monday, December 24, 2012

AIKS leads 5000-strong Cotton Peasant March to Nagpur Assembly; Sugarcane peasants lead stir for remunerative prices

Arun Latkar

As per the call given by the AIKS-organised Vidarbha-level convention of cotton and soyabean farmers at Amravati on October 31 (see report in People’s Democracy, November 19-25, 2012 and Loklahar, November 26 to December 2, 2012), nearly 5,000 peasants led by the AIKS Maharashtra state council marched to the state assembly on December 12, 2012 during its winter session. The Vidarbha region has gained notoriety for peasant suicides and has been called the graveyard of farmers. December 12 was chosen by the AIKS for this march since it was on that day in 1930 that a renowned martyr of Maharashtra, Babu Genu, tried to stop a truck carrying British cloth in Mumbai during the Swadeshi movement of the freedom struggle, and was mercilessly run over by it.

The special feature of this action was that it comprised cotton peasants from the backward Vidarbha and Marathwada regions only; the main base of the AIKS in Maharashtra, comprising the paddy-growing Adivasi peasantry in Nashik and Thane districts was consciously not mobilised for this march. Last month, the AIKS also intervened in the agitation of sugarcane peasants for fair prices.

There is a big outrage amongst the peasantry of Maharashtra against the poor and un-remunerative prices being paid this year for sugarcane, cotton, soyabean and other crops. The AIKS march thus demanded Rs 7500 per quintal for cotton, Rs 6500 for soyabean, Rs 3000 for paddy and Rs 3600 per tonne for sugarcane, with a first advance of Rs 2880 per tonne. It demanded that support prices for all crops be fixed as per the recommendations of the National Commission of Farmers that was headed by Dr M S Swaminathan. In view of the credit crunch leading to the forced dependence on private money-lenders, the AIKS demanded institutional credit for all farmers at the rate of 4 %.

In view of the serious drought situation in Marathwada and some other parts of the state, it demanded drinking water, first and foremost, along with other urgent drought relief measures like compensation. In view of the massive irrigation scam that has been unearthed in Maharashtra, which led to the resignation (and recent reinstatement!) of deputy chief minister and former irrigation minister Ajit Pawar, it demanded strict action against all those responsible for the scam. Along with this, it also demanded the completion of incomplete irrigation projects on a war footing.

The AIKS march insisted on an end to the chronic load-shedding of power and the withdrawal of the tariff hike in power. It also raised demands for the universalisation of the public distribution system and cheap grains to all, and for the right to education, employment and health in the rural areas.

An AIKS delegation led by state working president Rajaram Ozare, MLA, and comprising state general secretary Kisan Gujar, state office bearers Dada Raipure, Arjun Adey, Shankarrao Danav, Yashwant Zade and Arun Latkar met the state agriculture minister Radhakrishna Vikhe Patil and submitted a memorandum of demands. In the 40-minute discussion with the minister, he agreed in principle with most of the demands and assured the delegation of a quick decision on them.

The march culminated in a rally near the state assembly, which was addressed by all the above AIKS leaders. State council member Vilas Babar effectively conducted the proceedings of the rally. Among the leading AIKS activists from Vidarbha and Marathwada regions who worked for the success of this march were Prakash Sonone, Vijay Ingle, Mahadev Garpawar, Gopal Galkar, Rameshwar Kale, Jitendra Chopade, Anil Gaikwad, Devidas Mohkar, Kisanrao Moharle, Sanjay Bhoyar, Raju Hatwar, Namdevrao Gavhale, Digambar Poul, Kisan Poul and others.

The AIKS state council had printed 5000 posters and the AIKS district councils had printed thousands of leaflets for the propagation of this march on the state assembly.


Last month in November, sugarcane farmers in different parts of the state came out on the streets in their thousands to demand remunerative price for sugarcane. Every year this issue would be sorted out through a tripartite meeting of representatives of the state government, sugar factories and farmers’ organisations.  But this year, a peculiar situation arose because the Congress-NCP state government took the unprecedented stand that it was in no way concerned with the sugarcane price issue, which should be settled by the farmers themselves with the concerned sugar factory! This stand of withdrawal of the state in a vital issue angered the farmers even more. They directed their anger against both the state government and also the corrupt and rapacious sugar lobby, which has always given a raw deal to all the three toiling sections in the sugar industry, viz. cane farmers, cane cutters and cane factory workers.

On October 21, the CITU, AIKS and AIAWU organised a convention of all the above three toiling sections at Ambajogai in Beed district. It was inaugurated by CITU state general secretary Dr D L Karad, the main speakers were AIKS CKC member Dr Ashok Dhawale, AIKS state president J P Gavit, AIAWU state general secretary Prakash Choudhari, former deputy sugar commissioner E Haridas, Shetkari Sanghatana leader Kalidas Apet and president of the INTUC-affiliated sugar federation Babanrao Pawar. The convention was presided over by CITU state vice president Uddhav Bhavalkar and the main resolution of demands was placed by CITU state secretary Anna Sawant.

In November, various peasant organisations like the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana and the AIKS led the agitation for fair prices in various districts. Huge rallies and road blockades were organised in districts in Western Maharashtra, which is the bastion of the sugar industry, and in Marathwada. One cane farmer in Sangli district was killed in police firing, which led to a mass uproar. 

In Kolhapur district, four Left parties – PWP, CPI(M), CPI and JD(S) – came together to form a Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti which led several local struggles and also a large demonstration on the Sugar Commissioner’s office at Pune. In Kolhapur district, the AIKS and the CITU-affiliated Sugarcane Cutters Union played an important role in this struggle. The AIKS was also in the lead in places like Pathri tehsil in Parbhani district of Marathwada and Akole tehsil in Ahmednagar district of Western Maharashtra, where thousands of sugarcane farmers were mobilised. Memorandums were submitted by the AIKS in Solapur and other districts. The CPI(M) and AIKS/CITU leaders who led this struggle were Dr Subhash Jadhav, Prof A B Patil, Dr Ajit Nawale and Deepak Lipne.

In many districts, this stir succeeded in getting the first advance for sugarcane ranging from Rs 2300 to Rs 2500 per tonne, which was substantially higher than that given last year and also more than the paltry amount that was initially announced by the sugar factories this year.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Resist Injustice and Intensify Struggles: Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch

Vijoo Krishnan

THE central executive committee of the Adivasi Adhikar Rashtriya Manch (AARM) met at Ranchi on November 6-7, 2012. It was in Ranchi that the process towards the formation of the AARM was set rolling at the convention on adivasi rights held in 2002. Even as the adivasi communities have been mobilising for their rights, the attacks on their rights have also intensified. The formation of the AARM and the meeting at Ranchi only reinforces the steely resolve of the adivasi community to organise, build up resistance and fight for their rights. The rally and public meeting on November 6 where over 3000 adivasis gathered from different parts of Jharkhand despite inclement weather in many regions provided further evidence of the tempering of this resolve. The presence of a large number of adivasi women construction workers in the public meeting reflected the coordinated work between their trade union and AARM which is giving a fillip to the struggles of adivasis in the region.

The CEC meeting attended by thirty comrades from twelve states, began with introductory remarks by Baju Ban Riyan, chairman, AARM who noted that the neoliberal policies pursued by the Congress-led UPA government and many state governments have threatened adivasi livelihoods and heightened insecurity. Midiam Babu Rao, joint convenor of AARM who presented the report, mentioned about the abject deprivation and denial of rights in adivasi areas even after sixty five years of independence. He pointed to the looting of resources and indiscriminate land acquisition in tribal areas, deprivation of forest rights and impact of high food inflation on adivasi people. He also outlined the struggles launched by the affiliates of AARM in different parts of India. Brinda Karat spoke on the new amendments to the Rules of Forest Rights Act, the central government decisions on MFP, illegal mining, the coal scam, problem of tiger reserves and the situation in the Bodoland Territorial Autonomous District (BTAD) of Assam. The meeting deliberated on these and numerous other issues. Prominent among them were the issue of limitation of LPG cylinders in tribal hostels, anganwadi centres and the escalation in costs for students, illegal mining, indiscriminate land acquisition, BPL cards for all tribals, safeguarding the rights of the tribal people to mineral resources and their land as well as forests, especially in the context of the denial of forest rights, illegal land acquisition and the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Act. The central executive committee discussed these issues in detail and decided on the future course of action.

The report highlighted many issues including:


Adivasi communities are directly affected by coal mining as majority of coal bearing areas are in Fifth Schedule areas inhabited by a large number of adivasis. The coal scam unearthed by the report of the CAG raised many critical issues of the entire process of wrongful allocations of coal mines to big corporates and companies linked to political leaders belonging to the Congress and the BJP. During the period when a majority of these allocations took place, the prime minister himself was the minister of coal. A high level inquiry must be held including into the role of the prime minister's office, the wrong allocations must be scrapped and the money recovered. This corruption at such a high level calculated to have cost the exchequer over 1.86 lakh crore rupees could have only occurred because of the basic policy of the central government to reverse the nationalisation of the coal industry and to hand over this precious national resource to corporates, domestic and foreign. AARM strongly opposes privatisation and demands that all coal should be mined and allocated by Coal India.

However, the issue goes deeper and includes the rights of adivasis to their land and livelihood. At present the rights of adivasis are completely ignored. Coal India itself has a most inhuman policy of forcible eviction of adivasi and other communities from their land which has been identified for mining, without any proper plans for consultation, rehabilitation and resettlement. At present under Coal India R and R policy, jobs will be given only in those cases where more than two acres of land has been acquired. Since land holdings of adivasis and dalits may be less than two acres, they are denied compensatory jobs. Proof of occupation is not considered sufficient for provision of jobs. The money compensation is usually pittance. It is shocking that in the richest coal mining areas, the local communities, large numbers of adivasis are reduced to destitution, facing displacement, sometimes multiple displacements. AARM will raise its voice to ensure that the rights of adivasis guaranteed by the Fifth Schedule and PESAA are guaranteed.

The meeting decided to hold a round-table conference at Delhi on the Mining Act and the loot of public resources, problem of illegal mining as well as tribal rights involving broader sections and organisations working for tribal rights. Seminars at state and district levels as well as a study of mining and related issues will precede this conference.


The UPA government has utterly failed to control the price rise of essential commodities. The rate of food inflation was as high as 12 per cent in the month of September. The UPA government dealt a serious blow by hiking the price of diesel by Rs 5 a litre and slashing the subsidy on gas cylinders reducing the number of subsidised cylinders to only six in a year. For the rest, the price will be around 1500 rupees per cylinder. The government while shamelessly making all concessions to corporates and subsidising them in different forms, has so far refused to reverse this disastrous anti-people policy. Anganwadis, Mid-day Meal Schemes and especially adivasi and dalit student hostels will be very badly affected. The meeting decided to conduct a survey to make an assessment of the cost escalation for students due to the limitation of subsidised LPG cylinders and mobilise these sections in adivasi areas and ST hostels demanding an increase in the allocations and subsidies while joining the general democratic struggle to force the reversal of this decision.

The UPA government has refused to universalise the PDS and is still insisting on a targeted system of APL/BPL on the basis of fraudulent estimates. The food minister has announced that 10 million tonnes of foodgrains will be released in the open market. This will only benefit the private traders and not consumers as there is no control of prices in the open market. The AARM has taken up the issue of universalisation of the PDS and giving BPL cards to all adivasis and wherever it has been taken up adivasis have responded and joined the struggles. This struggle will be further intensified.

The denial of minimum wages, rampant corruption and discrimination meted out to adivasis under the MNREGS, the denial of proper health facilities, housing and basic amenities as well as pre/post-matriculation fellowships to tribal students, the dismal state of affairs in Ashram Schools, tribal hostels and such issues were also brought to light by representatives from different States.


The most recent figures on the implementation of the Forest Rights Act once again show the utter callousness of most state governments in implementation of the Act. In reality, the governments at the centre and most of the states are not recognising adivasi rights under the FRA so as to facilitate land acquisition in forest areas.

Till September 30, 2012, at the national level less than 40 per cent of the claims made under FRA have been accepted. In other words 60 per cent of claims have been rejected. It is true that the flaw in the Act itself of including 75 years evidence as a condition to accept the claims of non-tribal traditional forest dwellers is a critical reason in non- acceptance of claims of these sections. However going by the ground level experience, even in the claims by adivasi forest dwellers, the rejection rate is high. It is significant and noteworthy that the Left led state of Tripura tops the list having accepted 65 per cent of the claims. In Tripura when only the applications of adivasis are taken into account, 98 per cent of them have been accepted. The Congress ruled states of Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Rajasthan have dismal records of just 51 per cent, 29 per cent and 50 per cent respectively. The BJP ruled states are even worse with Gujarat at just 20 per cent, Madhya Pradesh at 36.5 per cent and Chhattisgarh at around 44 per cent. The latter two states have a substantial adivasi population, so the denial is all the more reprehensible.

At the national level, in terms of total numbers, the total number of claims received till September 30, 2012 was 32,31,078 (of which 60,411 were for community rights). Of these the number of claims accepted and title deeds distributed was 12,72,076 of which only 8348 were for community rights, in other words just around 13 per cent of the claims for community rights have been accepted. The rejection of community rights has to be seen as part of the government policy to hand over the forest areas to so-called projects including mining, which would be hampered if community rights were recognised. The ministry has stated that of the total claims, both individual and community, 86 per cent of the claims have been “disposed of.” In other words, it has accepted the rejections as being final. It is clear from the experience, particularly of Maharashtra and of Andhra Pradesh where concrete interventions on a wide scale have been made by the Kisan Sabha and AARM that in a large number of cases, the rejections are totally illegal. AARM will protest against closing the claims as “disposed” with concrete evidence in the different states and also at the centre.

The Rules under FRA have been amended by a notification on September 6, 2012. The meeting noted that the amended Rules make it more difficult to reject claims on flimsy grounds such as the person not being present when the verification team reached or an individual officer rejecting the claim without going through the recommendation of the Forest Committee etc. But even while the Rules are amended the same ministry accepts that 86 per cent of the claims are already disposed of. AARM demands that the rejected claims be reopened. An important and positive amendment is to permit forest dwellers to transport MFP by “any appropriate means of transport.” It does away with the present restriction of “bicycle or handcart” in the Rules. The amendments also give power to Gram Sabhas to decide the “management plan for community resources”. This can be used as an effective counter to the arbitrary decisions of the government sponsored Forest Management Committees which often deny adivasis their rights.


The meeting welcomed the declaration of the minister of tribal affairs in May 2012 that a commission would be set up by January 2013 under the tribal affairs ministry to ensure a minimum support price (MSP) for MFP. This has been a long-standing demand for which AARM has been struggling. However, there are doubts as to the extent of implementation of this assurance given the earlier experience in this regard.

Earlier the ministry of panchayati raj had set up the Haque Committee to study the issue of MFP which had submitted its report in May 2011. The Planning Commission also set up a sub-group to look into this issue for the Twelfth Five Year Plan which also submitted its report in September 2011. The sub-group is already on record that the MSP for the 16 minor forest produce items identified by the Haque Committee such as tendu, bamboo, mahua flowers, mahua seeds, sal leaves, sal seeds, lac, chironji, wild honey, tamarind etc will cost at least 4000 crores to 5000 crores rupees a year. The sub-group has recommended allocations of just 2000 crores for the entire period of the Plan, which works out to just 400 crores a year. Thus even before the finalisation, the amount being suggested is just a pittance of what is required.

The issue of a MSP for MFP is urgent and essential. According to the Planning Commission’s own estimates around 275 million people depend on MFP earnings. While 20-40 per cent of the income of forest dwellers depends on MFP, it is estimated that fifty per cent of adivasis are dependent on MFP for a livelihood. The value of the trade is put at over 6000 crores a year, but the actual gatherers get dismal rates while the profits are grabbed by middlemen and business companies. AARM decided to take up these issues and organise a widespread campaign on the demand for an effective commission with adequate allocations.


The meeting discussed on the hypocritical stand of the central government on tourism in tiger reserves and the changing stand of the Supreme Court. This is geared not towards the implementation of existing legislation like the FRA or the Wildlife Protection Act (amended) but only to protect the interests of the resort owners and tourist related big businesses. In July 2012, the Supreme Court banned all tourist related activity in the entire tiger reserve. In October 2012 in the same case, the Supreme Court lifted the ban pending the final judgment and accepted the guidelines for eco-tourism in the tiger reserves as issued by the central government through the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) in June 2011. The government and the Supreme Court have protected the interests of the tourism industry. But forest dwellers are being forcibly relocated, being paid a sum of ten lakh rupees. In some areas because of lack of so-called evidence, even this compensation is being denied.

The Supreme Court has also so far not commented on the clauses in the guidelines which state that in all eco-tourist projects, local communities must be given priority in employment. The rights of forest dwellers to full access including for livelihood requirements to the areas must be guaranteed. There can be no forcible relocation. The provisions of FRA and WLPA regarding classification, recognition of rights, relocation must be fully implemented.


The Parliamentary standing committee in its recommendations has mentioned the memorandum of the AARM in relation to its conclusions in six clauses and accepted some of the suggestions of the organisation. Significantly, it has suggested that consultation is not enough; consent is required from Gram Sabhas. It has also recommended that no central Act should be exempted from the LARR. It has also accepted our demand that the special provisions for SCs and STs should be reflected in the main part of the Bill. It has also recommended that the Bill should not allow for acquisition or alienation of land in Schedule 5 and 6 areas and if unavoidable there should be increased compensation. However, on the issue of mining, including coal mining, the standing committee has negatively brought it into the definition of ‘public purpose’ as infrastructure, thus not requiring any consent. This will prove detrimental to the rights of the adivasis over mineral resources. Several suggestions made by AARM have been accepted either partially or substantially by the standing committee. However, in response, the government in its recent draft of the official Bill retains all the main obnoxious and anti-tribal provisions. AARM will popularise our objections and launch struggles to protect adivasi rights.


The meeting noted with concern the continuing violence in Kokhrajar district and adjoining areas of the BTAD. The Congress government utterly failed to intervene in time, leading to the death of around 100 persons, the burning of houses, loot of property and displacement in the first instance of around 3 lakh people, the bulk of who belong to the minority communities. Even today there are over 1.5 lakh Muslims in the relief camps, while majority of the Bodo displaced families have been able to return home. The developments in Assam point to the danger of narrow identity politics which subverts the protection given to tribal communities under the Sixth Schedule of the constitution. AARM rejected the propaganda that all the Bengali Muslims in the region are illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. Historical circumstances starting from a century ago have led to the settlement of different communities, including Bengali Muslims in the region. While the rights of the Bodo communities must be protected under the Sixth Schedule, it cannot be by forcibly driving out other communities. The meeting condemned the effort of the RSS-BJP as well as right wing Muslim organisations to communalise the situation. Extremist elements from both communities have to be fought back and isolated. Those still in the relief camps must be protected and helped to return to their homes without any conditions. AARM also demands that the Assam Accord be implemented, the Indo-Bangladesh border sealed, the National population register must be speedily updated and the distribution of photo identity cards to all citizens based on the electoral rolls of 1971.


The members from different states enumerated the spate of successful struggles on important issues. In Jharkhand, our struggles ensured that arrears of around 1.2 lakh rupees was given to adivasi workers in Dumka district. Successful struggles were held against land acquisition wherein in Ranchi the acquisition of 256 acres for Housing Board could be stopped and in Jamtara over 500 acres were returned to adivasis. Struggles against giving away 5000 acres to Reliance in Hazaribagh and 1100 acres to Electro Steel were launched. The struggles by the Girijana Sangham in Andhra Pradesh have led to the tribal affairs ministry cancelling the licenses of Jindal and a Dubai based company for bauxite mining. The united front of over 140 organisations of SC/STs forced the government in AP to set up a sub committee to look into implementation of the sub plan and a special session of the assembly has been agreed upon. In Bengal even amidst extreme violence and attacks on democratic functioning, struggles have been launched on issue of forest rights, food security, ST old age pension, against illegal quarrying and stone-crushing units, unauthorised contracts to open cast coal mines etc. Struggles in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh on PDS, corruption in MNREGS, Odisha struggle for land in Gajapati district wherein a notice to grant four acres to all adivasis has been issued after a movement that spread to 300 villages are all very inspiring. The stay on eviction of 1500 families under the Kuldiha National Park in Balasore district is also a significant gain. Tamilnadu witnessed huge protests against eviction of 3000 families in Ambasamudram for a Tiger Sanctuary. There were protests against the government order banning house-site pattas and land pattas in Hill areas. The government agreed to provision of 90 per cent of the value of trees planted in tribal areas to the tribal people as opposed to the earlier provision that Forest Department will have to get 40 per cent of the value. Kerala has seen massive mobilisation for land rights to adivasis and against police atrocities. In Maharashtra struggles for Forest Rights, on PDS and effective intervention against diversion of foodgrains by local politicians have taken place. Rajasthan has witnessed protests in Udaipur against illegal evictions with thousands participating and launched a campaign against unjust land acquisition in Dungarpur for railway project as well as against eviction of adivasis from Kumbalgarh Tiger Reserve. In Assam, the organisation intervened seeking government intervention to stop the violence in BTAD region and provide speedy rehabilitation.

Jitender Choudhury, minister in the LF government gave a detailed report on the policies towards adivasis in Tripura which was inspiring. In Tripura, the intervention of the Gana Mukti Parishad and Kisan Sabha as well as the Left Front government has ensured the per capita fund flow under MNREGS (wages paid as well as infrastructure created) is as high as Rs 2833.86 in the state while it is as low as Rs 41.16 in MP and Rs 63.90 in Gujarat. The Left Front government has also strived to develop the land given under FRA with agro-forestry, horticultural crops, irrigation and extension of MNREGS under a project to enhance economic viability of these lands. Pension rights to tribals are guaranteed. All efforts are on to ensure the overwhelming victory of the Left Front in the forthcoming assembly election.

Struggles under the aegis of the AARM and its affiliates are continuing and it is also being accompanied by education of cadre and organisation building. AARM will move on to further intensification of struggles and consolidate organisationally in tribal areas as a fighting organisation of adivasis. 

Sunday, November 18, 2012

AIKS' Vidarbha Convention of Cotton Peasants: Call for Assembly March

Udayan Sharma

On October 31, 2012, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) Maharashtra state council organised a 1000-strong Vidarbha-level cotton peasants convention at Amravati. Amravati is one of the two divisional headquarters of the Vidarbha region, the other being Nagpur. The six districts of Yavatmal, Amravati, Buldana, Akola, Washim and Wardha (the first five come in the Amravati division) account for the bulk of the peasant suicides due to indebtedness in Maharashtra during the last decade and a half. As per the report of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) of the Union Home Ministry, of the 2.5 lakh-odd peasant suicides in the last 15 years in the country, Maharashtra has the largest number of around 42,000. Most of these are from the Vidarbha region. Cotton-growing peasants from the six districts of Wardha, Yavatmal, Amravati, Buldana, Nagpur and Akola attended this convention.

The convention was inaugurated by AIKS joint secretary N K Shukla. It was presided over by AIKS state vice president Udayan Sharma. In his inaugural speech, N K Shukla said that Indian agriculture had been facing an unprecedented crisis since the inauguration of the neo-liberal policies in 1991. The peasant suicides due to indebtedness began in 1994. There are two suicides of debt-ridden peasants in our country every hour. The Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, unfortunately, is in the forefront of this tragedy. On the one hand, food production in the country has increased, godowns are bursting beyond capacity, but on the other hand this grain is rotting because the UPA regime is not ready to give it to the poor at cheap rates. The attacks on the peasantry in the form of cuts in subsidies of farm inputs and refusal to give remunerative prices to farm output are increasing day by day. The peasantry must come out on the streets in struggle against these neo-liberal attacks. N K Shukla concluded by saying that struggle is the way, not suicide.    

Three resolutions were adopted by the convention. The first resolution demanding remunerative prices for agricultural produce and an effective state machinery to purchase it, was moved by AIKS state vice president Dada Raipure and was seconded by state joint secretary Yashwant Zade and by the elected Panchayat Samiti member of the AIKS, Jitendra Chopade. The second resolution on the right of the peasantry to water and irrigation, and against the massive irrigation scam unearthed in Maharashtra, was moved by AIKS state council member Prakash Sonone and it was seconded by state council member Arun Latkar. The third resolution on the direction of the future struggle was moved by AIKS state joint secretary Shankarrao Danav and was seconded by state council member D B Naik. 

After the convention was addressed by AIKS state general secretary Kisan Gujar and by AIKS Amravati district vice president Vijay Ingle, the concluding speech was delivered by AIKS CKC member Dr Ashok Dhawale. He said that four main factors today contributed to the agrarian crisis. One, the government policy of slashing agricultural subsidies and encouraging multinationals have led to massive price rise of all agricultural inputs like seeds, fertilisers, insecticides, diesel, water and power, thus escalating the cost of production. Two, the refusal of successive central governments to give remunerative prices for agricultural produce, as per the recommendations of the National Commission for Farmers that was headed by Dr M S Swaminathan. Three, the credit crunch imposed on poor and middle farmers by banks and co-operative credit societies, forcing them to rely on usurious private money-lenders. Four, the bankrupt and corrupt state of irrigation in the state, as a result of which even today, 82 per cent of the cultivable land in Maharashtra is still dryland.

The most glaring example of this last point is the fact that out of Rs 70,000 crore spent by the Congress-NCP state government on irrigation over the last 10 years, it has been alleged by a leading chief engineer in the irrigation department itself that around Rs 35,000 crore went up in the smoke of corruption! Consequently, the percentage of land in the state under irrigation in these last 10 years rose by only 0.1 per cent, from 17.8 to 17.9! This entire controversy led to the resignation of deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar of the NCP.

In the end, Dr Ashok Dhawale announced the future programme of struggle: 1. District conventions of cotton peasants in the end of November; 2. District and tehsil demonstrations in the first week of December; and 3. State-level march by the AIKS on the Nagpur session of the state assembly on December 12, the martyrdom anniversary of Shaheed Babu Genu, who was run over and killed in Mumbai in 1930 during the freedom struggle while trying to stop a truck carrying British cloth.

Activists of the AIKS, CITU and AIAWU in Amravati district had made excellent arrangements for this convention. Amravati will also host the 21st state conference of the AIKS in March 2013. A meeting of leading activists, attended by Dr Ashok Dhawale, Udayan Sharma and Kisan Gujar, was held the next day on November 1 to chalk out the preparatory tasks.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Condemn the firing on Sangli farmers!

The All India Kisan Sabha strongly condemns the heinous police firing on protesting farmers at Sangli in Maharashtra on 12th November. One farmer died in the incident. Another farmer who was part of the protest was run-over by a truck. AIKS offers its condolences to the families of the bereaved. Kisan Sabha demands Rs.10 lakh compensation and a Government job to one member of each of the families of the deceased. 

Family members of Chandrakant Nalawade, victim of the police firing, claimed that five bullets were fired at him. Nalawade is survived by his wife, two children and mother. He hailed from Bedag village in Miraj taluka of the district. His family shifted to Vasgade village where he had purchased one acre of land and had settled down.

The sugarcane farmers in different parts of Maharashtra have been on a consistent organised struggle demanding not less than Rs.3000/tonne as the first advance and Rs.3600/tonne as the final price for sugarcane in the State. The AIKS has been part of this struggle and have been carrying on a united struggle for remunerative prices. In the run-up to these struggles on 21st October 2012, a 500-strong Convention had been organised jointly by the AIKS, CITU and AIAWU at Ambajogai in the Beed District of Marathwada region comprising of sugarcane farmers, sugarcane cutters and sugar factory workers which took up demands of all three toiling sections.

Meanwhile, in the Kolhapur District of South Maharashtra, four Left and secular parties had come together to form a Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti and have held large demonstrations for remunerative price to sugarcane farmers. The AIKS has been a part of the struggle in Kolhapur including other organisations of the peasantry like the Swabhimani Shetkari Sanghatana. The struggle has now spread to other cane growing areas and sugarcane farmers in Beed, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur, Pune and Sholapur Districts have been agitating with the demand that Rs.3000/tonne be fixed as the first advance on sugarcane purchase this season. In Ahmadnagar and Parbani Districts the Kisan Sabha has been independently carrying out this struggle from the last few months. On 9th November 2012 there was a miltant demonstration by over a thousand farmers at Pune under the banner of the Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti. It was in the course of the continuing struggle of sugarcane farmers, cutters and sugar factory workers that this brutal police firing took place.

Police attack a farmer activist during a protest in Karad

Yet again police fired on protestors on 14th November also. Police have arrested 152 protestors while no action has been taken on the police officials guilty of firing causing injury and death. This exposes the fact that the Congress-NCP led State Government is taking a confrontationist stand openly in favour of the sugar lobby and is least bothered about resolving the issue through negotiations. It is to be noted that the Congress-NCP State Government in line with the Congress-led Central Government and the Agriculture Ministry’s proposal to decontrol sugar industry, decided not to intervene in sugarcane pricing this year even before the Rangarajan Committee recommendations have got Parliamentary sanction. The Government is shirking its responsibility and wants the peasantry to settle the issue directly with the sugar mills and cooperatives. The private millers and cooperative sugar factories have refused to pay Rs.3000/tonne and were offering only between Rs.2100/tonne to Rs.2300/tonne.

Notably the private sugar mills in different parts of India owe arrears of over Rs.10,500 crores to sugarcane farmers. The ruling class has not made any sincere effort to recover this amount and give it back to the farmers. In Maharashtra a vast majority of the cooperatives and sugar mills are directly owned or controlled by the leaders of the Congress-NCP combine or the BJP-Shiv Sena combine. Hence none of these parties are interested in resolving the issue or paying remunerative prices to the sugarcane growers.

The AIKS along with the different Farmers’ organisations that are part of the Shetkari Sangharsh Samiti is organising a massive protest Dharna on 16th November in Kolhapur against the police firing. This will be followed by a massive protest rally in Mumbai on 26th November 2012.  We warn that protests will be intensified if the Government continues with its insensitive stand.

Monday, October 15, 2012

AIKS statement on the Rangarajan Committee on Sugar Decontrol

The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) strongly condemns the Rangarajan Committee recommendation for total decontrol of the sugar industry. This move pushed by the Congress-led UPA Government will only promote the interests of the profit seeking Corporate Sugar Mills at the expense of the farmers, consumers and the Cooperative sector. The Government is pushing for decontrol of sugar to aid the sugar lobby and big corporates who also are defaulters in terms of huge arrears that need to be paid to Cane Growers. This move is at the behest of the sugar lobby which has been demanding removal of controls and allowing for unbridled profiteering. Opinion of AIKS on the major issues raised by the Committee is given below:

On Removal Of State Administered Price: 

AIKS rejects the Committee call for ending the State Administered Price (SAP) of sugarcane set by the States in favour of the Fair and Remunerative Price (FRP) set by the Centre as the minimum. This is against the principles of federalism guiding Centre-State relations as well as against the spirit of the Apex Court judgment in 2004 reinforcing the State Governments’ right to announce SAP. The right of the State in fixing prices must be safeguarded. It is notable that the ‘Fair and Remunerative Price’ used by the Central Government is a deceptive term and is far below the cost of cultivation in all States. In the name of “Rationalisation of Sugar Cane Pricing” the Committee is pitching for the discredited FRP which is neither “Fair” nor “Remunerative”.  This move is against the interest of the Cane Growers. 

On Removal of Levy Sugar Obligation: 

AIKS rejects its recommendation that the levy sugar obligation and administrative control on non-levy sugar must be immediately ended. Under this obligation mills are required to sell 10 per cent of their production to the Government at below market price for the poor under the Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS). The Committee also suggests that the States that wanted to provide sugar under the TPDS might procure from the open market through competitive bidding, and then fix an issue price. It also has asked the Government to “rationalize” the current issue price for TPDS sugar. The Food Ministry is reported to have already proposed to double the issue price to around Rs. 23/Kg. This move is going to have a cascading effect on the prices of sugar for the TPDS beneficiaries and States will end up coughing out huge resources for buying sugar from the open market for TPDS supply. The price of sugar in the open market will also sky rocket. In effect the move is against the TPDS and the poor. It has to be noted that earlier the levy sugar obligation was 65 percent and 35 percent alone was for the open market. This had been gradually altered to 10 percent levy sugar and 90 percent for open market. By doing away with the obligation of even 10 percent levy sugar the Government intends to allow a free hand to Private players to fix prices.

On Removal Of The Cane Reservation Area: 

The Committee has suggested the removal of the concept of a Reservation Area of a minimum distance of 15 km between any two sugar mills. As of now it is obligatory that a mill buys cane from growers within the reservation area. Instead the Committee suggests that mills must enter into contracts with farmers and the Cane Reservation Area and bonding must be phased out. This move will only promote monopolies of big corporate sugar mills and destroy the Cooperative sector. Companies will no longer be bound by any agreement on Government fixed prices. It will open the way for loot by the sugar lobby and Cane Growers will be at the mercy of Private players.

On Tagging Order: 

The Committee recommends that the mills must share 70 per cent of the value of sugar and each by-product, including bagasse, molasses and press-mud as cane dues payable to farmers for supplies. The payment to farmers will be made in two steps: the first, the minimum FRP set by the Centre; and the second, subsequent to the publication of half-yearly ex-mill prices. The Tagging Order earlier was 80 percent of the value of sugar and each by-products and the Committee has only reduced it further to the detriment of the Cane-Growers. The Mills have also defaulted on paying this amount. They have arbitrarily fixed the recovery rate often much below the actual and reports of fraudulent weighing of produce are rampant. The Sugar Mills’ word is taken as final on both recovery and weighing and there is no check on them. Cane Growers never really have benefited from value of by-products. There is no mechanism in place to ensure that the Cane Growers get any share of the value of by-products. In such a context to give a free unregulated role to the Sugar Millers will only lead to their strangle-hold over the market.

On Export and Import Policy: 

The Committee in the name of a stable trade policy calls for outright ban or doing away with quantitative restrictions once and for all. It calls for liberalisation of sugar trade over a two to three year period in a calibrated and phased manner. It suggests a moderate duty on imports and exports and suggests that Export and import policy should not be guided by domestic availability. It argues for promoting exports by arguing that even though India contributes 17 per cent to the global sugar output, its share in exports is only four per cent. It also keeps the doors open for imports from outside as well as the possibility of dumping of sugar by calling for an outright ban on quantitative restrictions. We have seen the adverse impact of withdrawal of quantitative restrictions and import duties as well as linking of prices to the volatile world market prices in the case of other commercial crops. While farmers bear the brunt of falling global prices, the Corporate Mills earn huge profits when global prices rise without transferring any benefit to farmers. Like in the case of decontrol of Seed industry, Fertiliser industry, Pesticide industry and Petroleum industry, the move will only lead to increased prices for the consumers and unending profits for the Companies. 

AIKS calls upon the State Units to rise up in protest against this move and resist this retrograde move tooth and nail. AIKS demands that the Government reject these recommendations and a Comprehensive Sugarcane Policy be evolved through consultation with the Cane Growers and Peasant Organisations. 


S.Ramachandran Pillai                                                                               

K. Varadha Rajan
General Secretary

Saturday, September 22, 2012

First Krishna Khopkar Memorial Lecture delivered

The first Krishna Khopkar Memorial Lecture, organised by the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), was held in Nashik on the 15th September 2012, Saturday. The memorial lecture was delivered by Professor V. K. Ramachandran, Professor, Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata. Professor Ramachandran spoke on "Resolving the Agrarian Question in India".

After paying rich homages to Comrade Krishna Khopkar, Ramachandran spoke on "Resolving the Agrarian Question in India". He said that the agrarian question continues to be the foremost national question before the people of India. This question had deeply influenced selfless leaders of the kisan movement like Krishna Khopkar through their life. The significance of the agrarian question in India lies not merely in the fact that more than 70 per cent of India’s population lives in rural areas (an important reason in itself), but in the fact that the agrarian question is the axis of the people’s democratic revolution, and its overwhelming significance will remain as long as the people’s democratic phase continues.

When India gained Independence 63 years ago, the major economic problems of the newly independent nation could be characterised thus: hundreds of millions of India’s people lived in the depths of income poverty, in conditions of hunger, illiteracy, lack of schooling, avoidable disease, and subject to what were among the worst forms of class, caste, and gender oppression in the world. The truly appalling feature of more than six decades of independent development is that that characterisation of India’s economic problems remains true even today. The basic reason is clear: modern historical experience has shown us that no fundamental transformation of conditions of poverty and oppression in Indian society is possible without a resolution of its agrarian question.

He explained that to solve the agrarian question today is to address seven major issues: 1) to free the countryside of all forms of landlordism, old and new; 2) to free the working peasantry and manual workers from their present fetters of unfreedom and drudgery and to guarantee them the means of income and livelihood; 3) to redistribute agricultural land; 4) to provide the rural working people with house-sites, and basic, clean, sanitary homes and habitations; 5) to create the conditions for the liberation of the people of the scheduled castes and tribes, of women, and other victims of sectional deprivation (including in most parts of India, the rural Muslim population); 6) to ensure universal formal school education; 7) to achieve the general democratisation of life and progressive cultural development in rural India.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

अन्न सुरक्षेचा गंभीर प्रश्न

वृंदा करात

डाव्या पक्षांनी अन्नसुरक्षेच्या मजबुतीसाठी सार्वजनिक वितरण व्यवस्थेचे सार्वत्रिकीकरण व्हावे यासाठी अतिशय योग्यवेळी देशव्यापी संघर्षाची हाक दिलेली आहे, कारण लक्ष्याधारित एपीएल/बीपीएल पद्धतीमुळे देशातील अन्नसुरक्षा धोक्यात आलेली आहे. गेली दोन वर्षे देशात अन्नधान्याचे उत्पादन व साठवण भरपूर झालेले आहे. सार्वजनिक वितरण व्यवस्था लक्ष्याधारित न ठेवताही धान्यवितरण करून पुरेसा राखीव साठा आज राहू शवेत्र्ल एवढे उत्पान आज झालेले आहे. खरेतर या वर्षी उत्पादनात झालेल्या या तीन टक्के वाढीचा फायदा उठवत देशासमोर उभ्या असलेल्या वुत्र्पोषणाच्या प्रश्नाला यशस्वीपणे सामोरे जाण्याची संधी मिळाली होती. परंतु नवउदारवादी धोरणांच्या चौकटीमुळे उत्पादन आणि साठवणूक क्षमता यातील तफावत हीच एक समस्या बनून गेलेली आहे.

एका बाजूला भूक आणि वुत्र्पोषण यांचे लाजिरवाणे चित्र तर दुसर्‍या बाजूला साठवणूक क्षमता कमी असल्याने उघड्यावर पडून वुत्र्जत चाललेले धान्य कसे वाचवायचे याबद्दल सरकारच्या मंत्र्यांची लाजिरवाणी चर्चा! ३० एप्रिलला पंतप्रधान, वृत्र्षी, अर्थ आणि अन्ना मंत्री आणि नियोजन मंडळाचे अधिकारी यांची एक बैठक होऊन त्यात हा प्रश्न कसा सोडवायचा यावर चर्चा करण्यात आल्याची बातमी आहे. ज्या देशात जगातील सर्वात जास्त वुत्र्पोषित लोक आहेत त्या देशात हा प्रश्न सोडवण्यासाठी एवढ्या उच्चस्तरीय चर्चेची गरजच काय? धान्याचा कोटा वाढवून देत जनतेला कमी दरात धान्य उपलब्ध करून देणे हा एकमेव तोडगा या समस्येवर असू शकतो. बीपीएल/एपीएलचा कोटा वाढवून तो दुप्पट करावा आणि एपीएलची विंत्र्मत कमी करून जुना शिल्लक साठा संपवून गोदामे रब्बीच्या धान्यसाठ्यासाठी रिकामी करावीत अशी अन्ना मंत्रालयाची सूचना आहे. संसदीय स्थायी समितीकडे अन्न मंत्रालयाच्या अधिकार्‍यांनी १.०६ लाख कोटी रुपयांची मागणी वेत्र्लेली होती. ही मागणी २०१२-१३ साठी जो आंजपत्रकीय वाटा देण्यात आलेला आहे त्यापेक्षा ३०,००० कोटी रुपयांनी जास्त होती. पण ती मान्य करण्यात आलेली नाही.

उलटपक्षी बडे भांडवली शेतकरी आणि सरकारमध्ये बसलेले वृत्र्षीव्यापार प्रतिनिधी अशी मागणी करीत आहेत की, शेतकर्‍याला अनुदानाद्वारे प्रोत्साहित करणार्‍या निर्यातीवरील बंधने उठवा. शेतकर्‍याला ग्राहकाविरोधात उभे करण्याचा हा जाणीवपूर्वक प्रयत्न आहे ज्याचा फायदा श्रीमंत शेतकरी आणि बड्या व्यापार्‍यांनाच होणार आहे. उदाहरणासाठी फार दुरच्या काळात जाण्याची गरज नाही. अगदी अलिकडील २००८-२००९ मधील साखरेचे उदाहरण घेता येईल. त्यावेळेस साखरेची कृत्रिम टंचाई निर्माण वेत्र्ली गेली आणि साखरेच्या आयातीवर आणि निर्यातीवरही अनुदाने लाटत साखर वंत्र्पन्यांनी प्रचंड नफा कमावला आणि ग्राहकाला मात्र शंभर रुपये किलोने साखर घ्यावी लागली. २००६-२००७ मध्ये गहू शेतकर्‍यांकडून जाणीवपूर्वक गोळा वेत्र्ला गेला नाही. खाजगी व्यापार्‍यांनी शेतकर्‍याकडून किमान भावापेक्षा थोड्याशा जास्त भावाने गहू खरेदी वेत्र्ला. अखेर सरकारला भारतीय शेतकर्‍याला जो भाव दिला जात होता त्यापेक्षा कितीतरी चढा भाव देत गहू आयात करावा लागला. त्यामुळे सरकारी तिजोरीला तोटा सोसावा लागला. त्यावेळेसही बड्या शेतकर्‍यांनी आणि व्यापार्‍यांनी भरपूर नफा कमावला. निर्यातीवरची बंधने उठविल्यामुळे छोट्या शेतकर्‍यांना अजिबात फायदा होत नाही. बहुसंख्य शेतकरी कर्जात आवंत्र्ठ बुडालेले आहेत. स्वामीनाथन कमिशनने शिफारस वेत्र्लेल्या किमान आधारभूत विंत्र्मतीचा पाया आहे एवूत्र्ण उत्पादन खर्च अधिक ५० टक्के नफा. ही आधारभूत विंत्र्मत जर संपुआ सरकारने मान्य वेत्र्ली तरच शेतकर्‍याला काहीतरी दिलासा मिळेल.

दुसरी एक सूचना आहे पूर्वी ज्याप्रमाणे कामासाठी अन्न या कार्यक्रमाखाली पगाराचा काही भाग धान्याच्या स्वरूपात मिळत होता त्याप्रमाणे मनरेगा कामगाराला त्याच्या पगाराचा काही भाग धान्याच्या स्वरूपात द्यावा. मनरेगा कामगारांबाबत वेंत्र्द्र सरकारची वर्तणूक अतिशय विसंगत असल्याचे लक्षात घेऊन आम्ही मागणी करीत होतो कशाला प्राधान्य द्यायचे याची निवड राज्य सरकारने करावी. कारण एका बाजूला वेंत्र्द्र सरकार धान्य देण्याऐवजी रक्कम बँक खात्यातून देण्याला प्राधान्य देत आहे. म्हणजे वेंत्र्द्र सरकारला वाटत आहे जनतेने रेशन दुकानातून धान्याऐवजी रोख रक्कम घ्यावी आणि कामाच्या ठिकाणावर जनतेने रोख रकमेऐवजी धान्य स्वीकारावे. कार्यक्रमाना चमकवण्यात हे सरकार पटाईत आहे.

सरकारचा सध्याचा पेचप्रसंग आकड्यात दाखवता येईल. प्रत्येक मोसमातल्या मागणीनुसार वर्षाच्या प्रत्येक तिमाहीत किती राखीव साठा असावा याचेप्रमाण निर्धारित करण्यात आलेले आहे. ते खालील तक्त्यात दिले आहे.

तांदूळ (टन)
गहू (टन)
एकूण (लाखात)

गेल्या दोन वर्षापासून हे साठे गरजेपेक्षा खूपच जास्त आहेत. उदाहरणार्थ, जानेवारी २०१० मध्ये हा साठा ४७४.४५ टन होता. म्हणजे निर्धारित प्रमाणापेक्षा तो १३७ टक्क्यांनी जास्त होता. एप्रिल २०१२ मध्ये तो ५४५ लाख टन म्हणजे २३६ टक्क्यांनी निर्धारित प्रमाणापेक्षा जास्त होता. चांगले रब्बी पीक, विक्रमी साठवणूक यामुळे या वर्षी हा साठा ७०० लाख टनापर्यंत जाईल. जागतिक बाजारपेठेतील धान्याच्या विंत्र्मती कोसळल्याने बडे शेतकरी आणि व्यापारी यांचा निर्यातीवरील बंधनांबाबतचा आरडाओरडा बंद होता. पण आंतरराष्ट्रीय विंत्र्मतीत वाढ होण्याची शक्यता एफएओने वर्तवल्याने ही मंडळी आता कार्यरत झालेली आहेत. धान्य साठवणुकीचा प्रश्न पुढे करीत साठे कमी करायला भाग पाडायचे हे यांचे मुख्य उद्दिष्ट आहे. एकदाका निर्यातीवरची बंधने उठली की या बाजारी करामतखोरांचा अंमल चालू होईल.

अशीच परिस्थिती २००२-२००३ मध्ये निर्माण झाली होती. त्यावेळेस भाजपच्या नेतृत्वाखालील सरकार होते. ऑक्टोबर २००२ मध्ये तांदळाचा साठा होता १५६ लाख टन, राखीव साठ्याच्या निर्धारित साठ्यापेक्षा खूप जास्त. त्यावेळीही अशीच धान्य साठ्याच्या नाशाविषयीची मोहीम जोरात चालू करण्यात आली. मात्र हे जास्तीचे धान्यसाठे सार्वजनिक वितरण व्यवस्थेकडे न वळविता विंत्र्वा भारतीय ग्राहकांपर्यंत न पोहोचवता भाजप सरकारने हे साठे बड्या व्यापार्‍यांना बीपीएल विंत्र्मतीत उचलू देऊन निर्यातीला परवानगी दिली व प्रचंड नफे कमावण्याची संधी मिळवून दिली. वर्षभरातच तांदळाचे साठे पुन्हा राखीव साठ्याच्या निर्धारित मर्यादेखाली  आणले गेले. विंत्र्मती वाढविण्यासाठी टंचाई निर्माण वेत्र्ली गेली.

धान्य साठवणूक करण्यासाठी जागा नाही ह्या ओरड्याचे रूपांतर आता बड्या शेतकर्‍यांच्या आणि व्यापार्‍यांच्या निर्यात मागणीत वेत्र्ले जाईल. त्याचप्रमाणे राज्य सरकारच्या संस्थानी शेतकर्‍यांकडून धान्य गोळा करू नये यासाठीही वेत्र्ले जाईल. आपल्याला हवी असलेली विंत्र्मत जोपर्यंत मिळत नाही तोपर्यंत धान्याचा साठा खुला न करण्याइतकी क्षमता बड्या व्यापार्‍यांकडे असते. भविष्यात टंचाई निर्माण व्हावी ज्यामुळे धान्याच्या विंत्र्मतीत वाढ होईल अशीच परिस्थिती निर्माण वेत्र्ली जाते.

याचा अर्थ असा नव्हे की धान्य साठवणुकीची काहीच समस्या नाही. संसदेत अनेक वेळा आश्र्वासन देऊनही सरकार धान्य साठवणुकीची क्षमता लक्षणीयरित्या वाढवण्यात अपयशी ठरले आहे. ही सरकारच्या दृष्टीने अतिशय लाजिरवाणी गोष्ट आहे. अन्नसचिवांनी दिलेल्या माहितीप्रमाणे पुढील काही महिन्यांत साठवणुकीची ही क्षमता १०० लाख टनांनी कमी पडणार आहे. विविध योजनांद्वारे खाजगी क्षेत्राला सवलती देण्याचे सरकारचे धोरण आहे. पण संसदीय समितीचा अहवाल अस्वस्थ करणारे चित्र उभे करतो. अन्न महामंडळाच्या गोदामांची क्षमता जून २००९ ते पेत्र्ब्रुवारी २०१२ या काळात फक्त एक लाख टनांनी वाढलेली आहे आणि महामंडळाने खाजगी गोदामातून आणखी ५० लाख टन धान्य साठवणुकीची व्यवस्था वेत्र्लेली आहे.

लाखो लोक उपाशी असताना धान्य वुत्र्जू देणे हा नैतिक गुन्हा आहेच. पण खरा प्रश्न आहे ह्या प्रश्नाच्या सोडवणुकीसाठी कोणता मार्ग सर्वात विवेकी आणि सामाजिकदृष्ट्या योग्य आहे? काही लोक मागणी करत आहेत त्याप्रमाणे निर्यातीस परवानगी देण्याचा, की सार्वजनिक वितरण व्यवस्थेच्या कोट्यात वाढ करून त्या व्यवस्थेत जास्तीत जास्त वुत्र्टुंबांना सामावून घेत सार्वत्रिक वितरणव्यवस्थेकडे वाटचाल करण्याचा?

सध्या चर्चेत असलेला हा धान्य उत्पादनाचा, धान्य गोळा करण्याचा आणि धान्य साठवणुकीचा मुद्दा अन्न सुरक्षेच्या दृष्टीने धोक्याचा कंदील  आहे. संसदेत येणार्‍या साद्यस्थितीतल्या दोषपूर्ण अन्न सुरक्षा विधेयकात सुधारणा घडवून ३५ किलो धान्य २ रुपये किलो दराने देत सार्वत्रिक अन्न सुरक्षेची हमी देणारे विधेयक आणण्यासाठी व्यापक आणि प्रखर संघर्ष उभारण्याची संधी आजच्या परिस्थितीने आपल्याला दिलेली आहे. ही संधी तातडीने साधण्याची गरज ग्राहक आणि शेतकरी या दोघांनाही आहे.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Drought in Maharashtra: Massive Mobilisation of 33,000 Rural Poor

Ashok Dhawale

Responding to the call of the CPI (M) Maharashtra state committee, over 33,000 rural poor comprising mainly peasants and agricultural workers held demonstrations on district collectorates and tehsil offices in 19 districts of the state on May 14, 2012. The vital issue taken up was that of the severe drought currently stalking Maharashtra and the utter insensitivity of the Congress-NCP-led state government in dealing with this issue affecting crores of people and also lakhs of cattle.

In Chandwad


After dithering for weeks, in the beginning of May the state government finally admitted that 7753 villages in 15 districts were drought-affected. As always, this was also a gross underestimate, based on the ridiculously false ‘paisewari’ estimates of crop produce that are still based on the crop production criteria set up during the British colonial era!

Today, the situation in thousands of villages is grave. There is great scarcity and even complete absence of drinking water. Wells have run dry. Dams and reservoirs are depleted. There is lack of adequate fodder for cattle. Maharashtra is one of the worst states in the country so far as the implementation of MNREGA is concerned. Last year in 17 districts not even a single man day of work was provided. The wage paid is a pittance. The public distribution system is in shambles and is riddled with corruption and black-marketeering. To add to the woes of the drought-hit, load-shedding of power has increased to the tune of 12 to 16 hours a day in the rural areas.

In Jawhar

Drought is by no means a new phenomenon in Maharashtra. It recurs every three to four years. The number of tehsils that were earlier declared to be chronically drought-prone was 87. This figure has now crossed the 100 mark. Beyond setting up several Irrigation Commissions one after the other, successive state governments – be they of the Congress, Shiv-Sena-BJP or Congress-NCP - have done nothing. None of the recommendations of these Irrigation Commissions have been implemented.

For instance, some of these Commissions had said that with optimum utilization of both groundwater and surface water resources, 45 per cent of the land under cultivation could have been brought under irrigation. But what is the actual situation? As per the Economic Survey of Maharashtra 2011-12, when the state of Maharashtra was formed in 1960, 6.5 per cent of the cultivated area was under irrigation. It rose very gradually to 8.4 per cent in 1970-71, 12.3 per cent in 1980-81, 15.2 per cent in 1990-91, 17.8 per cent in 2000-01, and just 17.9 per cent in 2010-11. Dry land agriculture over 82 per cent of the area in the state has been suffering immensely as a result. It must be noted that the cultivated land under irrigation in India as a whole is 45.3 per cent.

In Parbhani

The nadir was reached in the last ten years. As part of the running battle between the Congress and the NCP (the NCP has long held the Irrigation portfolio in the state), chief minister Prithviraj Chavan declared recently that after spending Rs 70,000 crore on irrigation in the last ten years, the proportion of irrigated land increased by only 0.1 per cent. He announced that a White Paper on the issue would be published. This led to a war of words between both the parties in the ruling alliance.

Another significant issue concerns the massive escalation of irrigation expenses. The Irrigation Commissions in the early 1960s had opined that with an expense of 1,300 crore rupees, 30 per cent of the land could have been brought under irrigation by 1980. Today the chief minister says that a sum of 77,000 crore rupees would be required for the completion of incomplete projects! Needless to say, a significant part of this cost escalation is directly related to rising corruption at all levels. Now the rulers say that since such massive outlays are not possible, priority would be given to water conservation schemes. Nothing stopped them from doing so for the last several decades.

The third issue is the completely skewed nature of the distribution of irrigated water. It is well known that sugarcane is a water-guzzling crop. It is equally well known that Maharashtra is ruled by an alliance of the big bourgeoisie and the sugar lobby, predominantly from Western Maharashtra. As Kumar Shiralkar wrote recently in the CPI(M) state committee weekly ‘Jeevanmarg’: “In 1950, 45 per cent of irrigation water went to sugarcane. This rose to 60 per cent in 1987. In the last ten years, although Rs 70,000 crore spent on irrigation has come to naught, in 2011 the proportion of irrigation water going to sugarcane has reached 70 per cent. Today the average amount of water in the dams in the state is 23 per cent. In Vidarbha it is only 12 per cent. In 12 dams it is zero. In the medium and small irrigation projects it is between 11 to 15 per cent. It is in such a grim situation that 70 per cent of irrigation water is being given to cane, which occupies only 4.5 per cent of the cropped area.”

In Solapur

The last issue concerns the neo-liberal prescription - privatization of water resources and diversion of water to the rich in the cities and to SEZs, at the expense of the countryside. As a major step towards privatization, the Maharashtra Water Resources Bill was hurriedly passed and in 2005, the Maharashtra Water Resources Regulatory Authority was set up. Since the state government claims that it has no money to set up or complete irrigation projects, the policy of allowing private players in this sector began in right earnest, with all the attendant ill-effects on water-users.

Simultaneously, a drive began to divert scarce water resources from the rural areas to the uncontrolled expansion of the cities to cater to the interests of the builder lobby, and to SEZs. It was this same drive that led last year to the peasant resistance and police firing at Maval in Pune district, which killed three farmers, including a woman. It is now proposed to build as many as ten dams by displacing thousands of Adivasis and others from several villages in the Thane and Raigad districts adjoining Mumbai. Thane district, which has some of the largest dams and water reservoirs in the state, has only 2 per cent of irrigated land and there is great scarcity even of drinking water in several tribal-dominated tehsils.

On the other hand, it has been reported that Mukesh Ambani’s new 27-storey residence ‘Antilia’ in Mumbai, built at a cost of Rs 9,000 crore, is provided 60 lakh litres of water per month! While most of the state is in darkness due to power load-shedding (which is itself a direct result of the power privatization policy of the ruling classes that led to the Enron fiasco, and is now being compounded by the Jaitapur nuclear power project drive), the monthly electricity bill of this modern-day Ambani palace is to the tune of Rs 70 lakh! This is only one instance amongst many in Mumbai.


The CPI(M) Maharashtra state committee, which met on April 29, decided to launch an independent struggle on the issue of drought with two objectives in mind. The first was, of course, to ensure that immediate relief in the form of drinking water, employment, ration grain and fodder reached the people and their cattle. Towards this end, a charter of demands was prepared by the state committee. The second was to highlight the bankrupt ruling class policies briefly outlined above that had led to plunging the state in a chronic drought situation over the last several decades.

In Talasari

The two districts where the biggest mass actions were held were Thane and Nashik districts. Over 12,000 people stormed 7 tehsil offices in Thane district and over 11,000 people stormed 9 tehsil offices in Nashik district. In Thane district, the people gheraoed government offices in four tehsil centres and did not move until the authorities gave written assurances on their demands. At Igatpuri in Nashik district, over 500 people blocked the Mumbai-Agra National Highway.

In the Akole tehsil of Ahmednagar district, which hosted the Party state conference in March, over 3,000 people were mobilized in several village level actions. In the South Solapur tehsil of Solapur district, over 2000 people led a road blockade. In Parbhani district, a 1500-strong demonstration marched to the district collectorate. In Hatkanangale in Kolhapur district, a 1000-strong demonstration was held. In Nandurbar district, road blockades were organized in four tehsils, and nearly 400 people were arrested.

Similar actions took place in districts like Nanded, Beed, Jalna, Aurangabad, Hingoli, Amravati, Buldana, Jalgaon, Satara, Sangli and Raigad districts. Special mention must be made of demonstrations held by the Party in the urban centres like Mumbai, Nashik, Jalna and Aurangabad, where the working class raised the demand of the peasantry for drought relief. The actions in Solapur, Kolhapur and Parbhani districts also mobilized the working class along with the peasantry. In Pune, a Convention on Water was organized by left and secular parties.

All these mass actions succeeded in wresting concessions and immediate action from the government authorities for drought relief. Most of these actions were well covered by both print and electronic media, some of whom reported that it was only the CPI(M) among all other political parties in the state that took up concerted cudgels against the severe drought situation in the state.