Sunday, January 4, 2015

AIKS: Memorandum seeking redressal of farmers’ problems

AIKS General Secretary, Hannan Mollah and AIKS Joint Secretary Vijoo Krishnan met the Agriculture Minister on 4th December, 2014 and submitted a Memorandum seeking redressal of Farmers’ problems. A detailed discussion was held and the Minister assured to look into matters raised by the Kisan Sabha as well as have a pre-Budget discussion with AIKS. The detailed Memorandum is attached herewith.

Dated 4th December, 2014

Shri.Radha Mohan Singh
The Hon’ble Minister For Agriculture
Government of India,
Krishi Bhavan, New Delhi-110001

Sub: Seeking Redressal of Farmers’ Problems


The All India Kisan Sabha wishes to place before you some of our serious concerns regarding the acute agrarian crisis and conditions of the peasantry in the country and seek immediate steps for overcoming the bleak scenario.

The unprecedented crisis has put farmers in acute distress and it has manifested in the unfortunate escalation of farm suicides. According to independent estimates in Telangana alone in the 6 month period preceding 26th November 2014 over 430 farmers committed suicide. Vidarbha and Marathwada in Maharashtra have also been reporting an increase in farmers’ suicides with over 120 farmers committing suicide in November alone. In West Bengal there are reports of even paddy farmers committing suicide which is unprecedented. The agrarian crisis has not spared any State and even States like Punjab are seeing an increase in suicides due to indebtedness. The crash in prices of many major crops and absence of any Price Stabilisation effort or Support mechanism is only likely to further worsen the situation.

The stated objective of the Government’s price policy for agricultural produce is to ensure remunerative prices to the farmers for their produce and thereby to encourage higher investment and production. In reality leave alone getting remunerative prices, the farmers are not even able to realise the costs of cultivation rendering agriculture unviable. The Government policies have led to increased input costs and due to the decontrol of fertiliser sector the prices of fertilisers have risen manifold. Increasing prices of diesel and electricity has made irrigation and other farm activities much more costly. The pricing will fail to meet its objective of providing confidence to the farmers if it does not reflect the prevalent costs of agricultural inputs in the market and provide a reasonable margin of at least 50 percent over and above the Cost of Production as suggested by the Swaminathan Commission. The NDA Government practice of increasing prices of Wheat and Paddy by merely Rs.50/Qtl is no different from the Congress-led UPA policy and is unacceptable. MSP of many crops are even below the Cost of Production for many crops.

The Ministry of Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution has issued a letter to States regarding change in policy of procurement for the Central Pool. This will dismantle even the present weak Public Procurement as well as the Price Support System to India’s Farmers. The letter clearly takes a position against States giving bonus over and above the Minimum Support Price (MSP) on the pretext that it “distorts the market” and “drives private buyers out of the market”. It declares that in case a surplus Decentralised Procurement State (DCP State) declares bonus for wheat or paddy from Kharif Marketing Season 2014-15 and Rabi Marketing Season 2015-16 onwards, the Central Government will limit the procurement to the Central Pool. The letter states that it has been “decided” that if a State announces bonus over and above MSP, the FCI will “not take part” in procurement and MSP operation in the State. This is contrary to the Government’s position at the WTO and is in effect implementation of the demands of USA, EU and other advanced capitalist countries. AIKS demands withdrawal of the ban on procurement from States providing bonus over and above the MSP.

The neo-liberal policies and trade liberalisation has exposed the Indian Farmers to volatile world market prices and they have been the root of the unprecedented crisis. Price crash is witnessed in major crops like tea, rubber, pepper, coconut, cotton, tur, gram/chana, onion etc due to the faulty trade policies. Cotton pricesthat Farmers are getting are even far below the already unremunerative MSP. The rubber crisis as well as crisis of pepper growers and small tea growers is also taking serious proportions.  Onion farmers in Karnataka and Maharashtra were forced to throw away their produce due to the price crash and absence of scientific storage facilities. The Indian peasantry can be protected from vagaries of the volatile world market prices only if the Government puts in place an effective procurement policy complemented by remunerative support prices. It also entails a complete ban on Futures Trading. It is required that certain measures like revamping the Marketing Boards or making certain allocations for building a Price Stabilization Fund as suggested by the National Commission of Farmers has to be implemented. In the absence of any protection for our Farmers the rush for Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with EU, USA and the RCEP with ASEAN and other countries will lead to dumping of cheap goods and put Farmers’ livelihood in danger. AIKS demands that a review of Neo-Liberal policies be made and India withdraw from such unequal FTAs.

Sugarcane farmers in India are facing acute distress and thousands of crores of arrears are due from Sugar mills to the poor farmers. The Government has doled out further benefits to the Sugar lobby without any concrete action by them to clear the arrears due to the Cane Farmers which by the Government’s own admission is 110 billion rupees ($1.84 billion). This is in continuation of the policies of the Congress-led UPA Government which in December had approved Rs.6,600 crore interest free loans for the sugar industry exclusively for clearing sugarcane arrears. The present Government has extended this to allow Corporate Sugar Mills to avail additional interest-free loans of up to Rs.4,400 crore from banks which will add up to Rs.11,000 crores altogether. In addition the Government has given Export subsidy of Rs.3600/Tonne for sugar even as there is no effort to give a fair price to Farmers. The Government prices fixed are neither fair nor remunerative and AIKS feels that unless at least a price of Rs.350/Qtl is ensured and all arrears are paid, farmers will be forced to gradually stop cultivation as it has become a loss making venture. AIKS wants the withdrawal of decision to decontrol sugar industry, stopping of the huge subsidies to corporate sugar companies and calls upon the Government to use Sugarcane Development Fund for the benefit of Farmers.

Jute farmers in India are also in dire straits as the Government policy of allowing plastic bags has sharply curtailed the demand for jute bags and also the MSP is very low. AIKS demands Mandatory 100 percent usage of Jute bags for transport and packaging of Food Grains and Sugar and for a Ban on use of Synthetic Bags with strong deterrent action against violators. Jute Corporation of India should be instructed to open adequate purchasing centres and assure procurement at a MSP of Cost of Production plus 50 percent  (C2+50%).

Thousands of cattle were dying in the States of Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra due to a suspected outbreak of the dreaded “Foot-and-Mouth” disease. The suspected viral infection had taken epidemic proportion and the fatalities crossed over 30,000 putting the poor and marginal farmers into great misery. However, now it has come to light that the vaccines provided were sub-standard and probably even hazardous as AIKS had pointed out to the then Agriculture Minister. A Report prepared by Dr.Bhoj Singh, CCS NIAH, Baghpat for the Government of India has found that Companies are providing substandard vaccines for treatment of FMD and one of the Companies Intervet India Pvt Ltd used an anti-biotic Enerofloxacin whichshould not be used in dairy or food animals as preservative in the vaccine. Brilliant BioPharma and Indian Immunologicals Ltd also provided sub-standard vaccines. AIKS demands a thorough investigation and calls for Blacklisting of these companies and cancellation of their licenses as well as punishment of the guilty.

There must be timely fixation of MSP and it must be mandatory upon the Government to announce the MSP well before the crop sowing season. In addition to timely fixation of MSP there is need for timely procurement and the Food Corporation of India as well as other Governmental agencies involved with procurement should stay and involve with procurement for a longer period. An effective procurement mechanism complemented by a Universal Public Distribution System is indispensable if the farmers have to be led out of the present crisis. Procurement by the Government bodies has to be enhanced. Public procurement operations must be expanded and Farmers’ Cooperatives and Self Help Groups must be also drafted into this activity. The restrictions imposed on procurement through Panchayats and State Corporations has to be revoked and such efforts should be encouraged by having incentives to encourage better performers.

The middlemen and big traders control the dynamics of the local Mandis making it impossible for farmers to get a fair deal. There has to be stringent regulation of activities of such elements. The dilution of APMC Act to favour big organised retailers must be reversed and Farmers’ Cooperatives, SHGs as well as Panchayats must be engaged for Marketing.  Storage and agro-processing facilities must be modernised and augmented. Timely procurement should be complemented by an adequate storage mechanism to ward off problems arising out of erratic climatic conditions and ensure sufficient quantity can be procured at remunerative MSP. Agro-processing and value addition is indispensable for making agriculture more viable. Special attention to address the problem of perishables is required. There is hence a need for augmentation of storage facilities including cold storages and also facilities for agro-processing under the Cooperative sector giving encouragement to Farmers’ Cooperatives and Self-Help-Groups.

There has to be urgent efforts to widen the crop basket under the purview of the CACP and procurement of the same should be ensured. At present MSP excludes important crops like basmati and premium rice varieties, chilly, areca-nut, spices, castor, other oilseeds, aromatics, cash crops, traditional staples etc, thereby leaving the producers at the mercy of private traders. Minor Forest Produce must be procured at remunerative prices from Tribal people as it is their main source of livelihood and avenues for value addition must be ensured.

An alteration in the situation of persistent agrarian crisis can be possible only if the farmers are assured of truly fair and remunerative prices. Immediate steps to rein in costs of inputs and provide them at subsidised rates are also necessary. Input prices must be regulated and Fertiliser prices must be frozen at pre-Nutrient Based Subsidy rates. A comprehensive social security scheme for Agricultural Workers and strengthening of the MGNREGA is also required. Indiscriminate land acquisition must be stopped. Measures must be undertaken on a war-footing to address specific problems of areas hit by cyclones and drought. Unequal Free Trade Agreements and Trade Liberalisation measures must not be implemented. Dumping of cheap agricultural produce from other countries must be disallowed. All Trade negotiations should be transparent and the Parliament as well as States must be taken into confidence.

We hope you will look into the issues raised above and take immediate steps in the best interests of the peasantry.

Thanking you,

Hannan Mollah
General Secretary

AIKS: Oppose Authoritarian Anti-People Land Acquisition Ordinance

The All India Kisan Sabha condemns the BJP Government’s undemocratic move to amend the Land Acquisition legislation through an Ordinance by subverting the Parliament. The move smacks of authoritarianism and is clearly aimed to promote profiteering and real estate speculation by the corporates and land mafia. It further dilutes the existing Act which itself was flawed and loaded heavily against interests of the peasantry, land owners and dependents on land. The Ordinance ignores genuine concerns of farmers and millions of persons dependent on land. AIKS rejects this anti-farmer and anti-poor Ordinance. It shall build broad united movements at all sites of indiscriminate, unjust land acquisition and fight to protect the rights of the peasantry, tenants, agricultural workers and all affected persons. 

The Ordinance removes even the existing weak norms requiring consent of the land owners and Social Impact Assessment which are central to dealing with the problem of indiscriminate and forcible land acquisition. It also dilutes the existing definition of public purpose and will bring Private companies and their activities of unbridled profiteering into public purpose and promote further unregulated takeover of land by corporates. Even the weak provisions seeking to address food security concerns have been revoked making it possible to easily acquire multi-cropped fertile land as well as productive rain-fed and semi-arid land for industrial corridors, infrastructure projects including the PPP projects. Along with multi-cropped, irrigated lands protection for rain-fed, dry-land, semi-arid land as well as paddy lands, common property resources are indispensable to ensure food and livelihood security. Food security of the nation will be under threat as there are no effective safeguards against take-over of agricultural land, paddy lands, water bodies and protection for productive rain-fed, dry and semi-arid land although majority of cultivation in India is under such regions. The Government claim of bringing 13 Acts under the purview of the Land Acquisition Act would be rendered hollow by the new changes as well as the diluted nature of the provisions.

Rather than resorting to the Ordinance route what was required was to arrive at a democratic legislation by correcting the anomalies present in the Act relating to definition of public purpose, affected persons, ensuring stringent adherence to the principle of prior-informed consent and Social Impact Assessment, addressing food security concerns, effective compensation, rehabilitation and resettlement. Promotion of food security and livelihood security through the adherence to an equitable and sustainable National as well as State Land Use Plans monitored by Land Use Commissions at respective levels should have been emphasised. The Ordinance ignores all such issues and merely is an instrument for speedy expropriation and facilitation of land acquisition in a quick, cheap and easy way with little concern for consent, adequate compensation and rehabilitation of landowners and other dependents on land. It has only shifted from a “colonial” to a “neo-liberal” legal framework which is as draconian if not more.

AIKS will resist any moves to hand-over land for corporate profiteering and without ensuring prior informed consent. The BJP Government’s anti-people move will be defeated by the peasantry and the toiling masses through intense united struggles.

30th December, 2014