Friday, May 8, 2015

Farmers’ Struggles at Battleground Peripheries

- T Venkateshwarlu

The farmer suicide in the Aam Admi Party (AAP) rally at Delhi once again facilitated national level discussions on farmers’ suicide in the country. The rally was organized by the AAP against ‘Land acquisition Bill, 2014’. The farmer suicide is a big tragedy and very painful thing. Ruling party BJP and opposition party Congress blamed AAP to the farmer suicide. Delhi Chief Minister and AAP party leader Aravind Kejriwal accepted his mistake that to continue the meeting after the farmer suicide. Rahul Gandhi promised to the farmers that he will fight against land acquisition in the country. These statements and tragedies are all became the part of history. In the country farmers’ suicides have been happening for three decades without any interruption. From 1995 almost every 30 minutes one farmer is committing suicide. In these three decades nearly three lakh farmers were committed suicides. This is the according government data. In reality this number may be three times higher. In 2014 the rate of farmers’ suicide increased 26% comparing with previous year. No party did not take serious about farmers’ suicides and not wage struggles against the farmers’ major problems which are causing to the farmers’ suicides.

Many parties, organizations, forums and Non- government Organizations are waging struggles in various forms against ‘Land Acquisition Bill, 2014’. Modi government designed the ‘Land Acquisition Bill’ 2014’ by making changes to earlier Land Acquisition Bill, 2013. After curtailing the workers’ rights in the name ‘Sramevajayati’ Modi started his attack on farmers’ rights. Once again these actions proved that people took disastrous decision by electing Modi government. The tragedy is that many political parties did not respond and wage struggles against ‘Sramevajayati’ which is against workers and serve the industrialists interests. It shows that the parties’ interest in farmers’ vote bank in Indian politics.

In the new Bill Modi removed the consent and social impact assessment clauses in the Land Acquisition Bill, 2013. He wants to provide a lot of opportunities to the corporate companies to grab the farmers’ land and make huge profits. So, he removed the consent and social impact assessment clauses in the previous Bill. After the prolonged struggles for decades farmers succeed in getting ‘Land Acquisition Bill, 2013 which included progressive clauses such as 70% to 80 % consent of land owners which provides bargaining powers to the farmers to get better compensation to them at the time of land acquisition. The social impact assessment prevents corporate companies to make real estate business with the farmers’ land which were taken in the name of establishing industries and projects. There is no doubt that the Modi Land Bill is against farmers’ interests. He wants to serve the interests of the corporate companies. So, he thought that consent clause and social impact assessment may give troubles to corporate companies at the times of land acquisition. He never feels and hesitates to work for the corporate companies. Actually he proved himself that he is the best servant of the corporate owners. The corporate media is projecting him as a ‘savior’ of the country. He changed the Bill to fulfill the corporate companies’ aspirations. So, struggles against ‘Land Acquisition Bill, 2014’ are genuine and required. Any farmers’ family should not fell into vulnerable situation because of the land acquisition. Before taking farmers’ land for private companies, development projects and infrastructure projects, government should provide sufficient compensation and sustainable livelihoods to the land owners. Most of the parties which are waging struggles against ‘Land Bill, 2014’ largely confined to compensation. But compensation will not suffice to the farmers. We should demand that along with sufficient compensation land owners should be include as shareholders in the industries and development projects. No government has right to grab land from the farmers and distributes it to the corporate companies in the name of development. Farmers have the right on their lands. No government has to take their right on their lands. Only at the time of building cooperatives by themselves farmers may give their rights on the lands for collective benefit. The agriculture labourers and other people those who depend on lands and other natural resources for their livelihoods have to consider as the victims development projects at the time of land acquisition. Sufficient compensation has to pay them for losing their livelihoods opportunities. Even within the land acquisition arena those who are fighting against land acquisition are not demanding shareholder status of the land owners in industries and developmental projects.

Most of the ongoing farmers’ struggles are almost confined to the problem of ‘Land Acquisition Bill, 2014’. But we have to remember that this is one of the problems of the farmers’. Focusing more on ‘Land Acquisition Bill’ these parties put aside the other major burning problems of the famers’. Because of these problems small, marginal and middle class famers are facing serious crisis in agriculture. Famers have been gradually drowning in to the debt trap. Throughout the year farmers and their family members’ hard work did not get any reasonable income to survive. Instead of providing income to their hard work it gives huge debts and pushes them into more vulnerable conditions. These conditions are facilitating tragedy of farmers’ suicides across the country. Farmers are facing many serious problems such as lack of sufficient and timely financial assistance from the government banks, increasing prices of seeds, fertilizers and pesticides, lack of irrigated water facility, decreasing the soil productivity, lack of agricultural department services, lack of drying platforms and storages, lack of agriculture produce processing centers, marketing facilities to the produce and Minimum Support Price (MSP) to the agriculture produce.

Farmers are exploiting by the market at every stage from inputs stage to marketing stage. Lack of financial support from the government banks farmers are forced to depend on money lenders for agriculture loans. These money lenders collect high interest on the loans. Most of the times the traders or seeds, fertilizers and pesticides shop owners give loan and collect money with high interest after crop harvest or they give loan with the condition that the farmers have to sell their produce to those shop owners. Less quality of the seeds, fertilizers and pesticides are damaging the crops. Lack of storage facilities famers have to sell their produce after harvest. If they have facility to storage for their produce they can wait to get good price for their produce in the market. This situation forced famers to sell their produce as early as possible after harvesting.

Market places are far away from the villages. Farmers are unable to access the latest prices of their produce. So, they have to depend on traders to sell their produce. Traders are taking this as good advantage and purchasing produce from farmers at less prices. The traders become syndicate to purchase agriculture produce at less prices from the farmers. Traders are exploiting the farmers in a big way. Cost of production increased nearly four to five times but the income did not increase according to the production cost. At the same time the consumers are getting the agricultural produce at high prices. The profit is consuming by the traders. MSP became maximum price for the produce. Governments did not bother about the MSP to the agriculture produce.

Along with these problems erratic rains are also damaging the crops. Farmers are not getting sufficient insurance for their crops damage. Scarcity of the irrigating water became one of the big problems to the farmers. Farmers are spending lakhs of rupees on bore-wells and many times they are not getting water but they are drowning into debts because of bore-wells. Electricity problem became is one of the problems of farmers. They have to wait day and night for the electricity. The power cuts are adding their contribution in damaging the agriculture produce.

Farmers are doing cultivation with so many problems. These problems are pushing farmers into debt traps and finally causing to farmers’ suicides. The various parties and organizations have to wage relentless struggles on the farmers’ problems. Leaving these major problems and wage struggles and these struggles should be in center place of battle ground. But the political parties and organizations confined to the peripheries of the battle ground by confining the land acquisition.

The BJP and Congress party completely failed to address the farmers’ problems. These parties’ leaders are competing to propagate how they are working for the farmers. But in reality they never take farmers issue as a serious issue. Congress party could not find time to discuss the agricultural crisis in Parliament. Modi always find time for corporate companies’ owners but he did not want to give five minutes time to the farmers’ representatives to discuss agriculture crisis. But he propagates that ‘Nothing is valuable than farmers in the country’. People know who are most valuable to Modi. He works for the interests of the corporate companies by crushing the rights of farmers and workers. He removed the consent and social impact assessment clauses to protect the interests of the corporate companies. At the same time he can say that the farmers are most valuable in the country.

Communist parties and revolutionary groups are not yet come-out from their dogmatic world of semi- feudal theory. Particularly Communist Party of India (Marxist) leaders are almost confined to propagate the land reforms in West Bengal and failed build different types struggles on farmers’ major problems. These parties’ leaders forgot their party program to establish Socialism in the country. They did not bother about path of revolution which determines the strategy and tactics. These parties confined to Parliamentary politics and forgot Socialist revolution in the country. They did not understand ongoing changes taking place in economical and social fields particularly in the agricultural sector in the last three decades because of predominately prevalence of Capitalist relations in the agriculture. Because of the dogmatism and Parliamentary politics these parties’ leaders are reluctant to understand present agricultural relations, crisis and wage struggles against major problems of the farmers.

The revolutionary groups are waging struggles on ‘Land to The Tiller’. These groups’ leaders are reluctant to study changes in agriculture and new problems of the farmers. In their program ‘Landless’ is the major problem of the people in rural areas. They did not understand the changes occurred in the agriculture. So, they are not focusing the problems of farmers. The farmers those who are committing suicides are landholders. Even in the backward regions also farmers are committing suicides because market exploitation. Their problems are not lack of land. Their problems related to the market exploitation. It is the result of capital intervening in agriculture sector across the country. There may be variations in capitalist development across the country. In some corners or remote areas somebody may find the characteristics of the ‘Semi- feudal’. Because of the misunderstanding of about capitalist development in the country and they are reluctant to understand the changes in agriculture focus on farmers problems facing by the market. Because this limitation they are not waging struggles against exploitation in the market.

Waging prolonged struggles against these major problems is not as easy as waging struggles against ‘Land Acquisition’. Along with struggles the parties and organizations have to build farmers’ cooperatives with small, marginal and middle class farmers. Above 70% of the farmers belong to the small and marginal farmers’ category. These cooperatives manage by the leadership of the small and marginal farmers. These cooperatives purchase inputs at less price and sell the produce at reasonable price. These cooperatives will provide financial support to the farmers and do other initiatives like agriculture produce processing. Along with these initiatives these cooperatives work advocacy to get insurance and infrastructural facilities to the agriculture produce and pro farmers policies. The farmers are not corporate owners, so Modi did not care them and always try to cut the farmers rights to protect the interests of the corporate owners. The cooperatives also help to consumers by providing quality produce at reasonable price. These cooperatives will be good answer to the government which is praising and showing the corporate agriculture is the solution of the agriculture crisis.

The parties and organizations have to revisit their approach and understand the severity of the problems of the farmers. These problems are the result of capital intervening in the agriculture sector. Apart from struggles against ‘Land Acquisition Bill, 2014’ they have to wage struggles on major problems of the farmers. This initiative is require a lot to end the lakhs of farmers’ suicides across the country for the last three decades.

T. Venkateshwarlu is a Telangana based activist associated with New Socialist Initiative (NSI).


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