Peasant-Worker Unity Zindabad!
An Attack on One is an Attack on All!
Joint statement issued by workers’ organisations, December 2020
Brothers and Sisters!
Like crores and crores of people all over our country as well as innumerable people from all over the world, we the workers of the undersigned unions and organisations support the just demands of our peasants and demand that they be immediately fulfilled!
26th November 2020 will be remembered in history as a golden day in which over 25 crore workers from all over our country as well as crores of peasants raised their voices, demanding the withdrawal of anti-worker and anti-peasant laws passed by the government. On the same day the indefinite dharna of peasants belonging to about 500 peasant unions, began on the outskirts of our capital city. Lakhs of peasants from the northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand have now been joined by peasants from all over the country. The dharna still continues and inspires us all! Whenever peasant organisations have given the call, the whole country has come out in support of the peasants and the struggle keeps intensifying.
What is it that has given the peasants death defying courage, which has made them stop at nothing – whether it be dug up roads, tear gas shells, lathi charges, barbed wires and barricades or the continuous, deafening barrage of lying propaganda by the government and most of the mainstream media? What is it that has made men, women and children, young and old, camp indefinitely on the streets, in the biting cold, assuring anyone who asks them, “koi dikkat nahin” (There is no problem”)? What gives them the strength to declare that they will continue till their demands are met? The peasants have come fully prepared for a struggle that may last for months on end. They have come with supplies and have set up a supply mechanism as well. They have set up langars that are feeding literally tens of thousands of people every day – too many to count, as they say. Some of these langars cater to people practically around the clock!
The wonderful thing is that the peasants declare that they haven’t had to touch their stores yet, because of the generosity and support of local people! What has made the people of Delhi from all walks of life, as well as those of the surrounding villages and towns and from all over the country and abroad open their hearts and purses to ensure that those who are in struggle want for nothing – good food, water, medicines and medical services, and even mosquito nets, toothpaste and mosquito coils? What has made young people from far away cities and towns come and help these people to set up their communication network and translation services to ensure that people all over the world understand why they are fighting? What is it that makes the policeman miserable when he is commanded to oppose the peasants?
Friends, the answer to all these questions is simply this. All these people understand that these farm laws are meant to multiply the wealth of a handful of big capitalists and corporate houses. They are a brutal attack, not just on the peasants but on all of us, including on members of the security forces who are called upon to oppose them.
Bad as the condition of most of our peasants is, the new laws will literally grind them to dust. We workers have already experienced and seen the unlimited greed of these corporates, both Indian and foreign, in gobbling up public sector units and services – whether it be chunks of railways, ports, airports, electricity distribution, education, health and so on for a fraction of their worth. We know how it has adversely affected the workers as well as the public at large. The main thing is that the new farm laws permit and facilitate the entry of big corporate houses into farming and trade of agricultural produce. This will be disastrous for us all. Reliance Retail, Aditya Birla Retail, Tata’s Star India, Adani Wilmar, Big Bazaar, D-Mart, etc. as well as big foreign monopolies have been demanding such laws.
The new laws enable the capitalists to buy farm produce from anywhere in the country, at any price and without having to pay any market fees. They can enter into legal contracts with peasants in any region, thereby placing peasants at the mercy of the capitalist trading companies without any protection from the State. The corporate contractor can always refuse to buy the produce if the market price is lower than the contracted price. The peasants cannot afford to take the big contractors to court and do not stand a chance against them even if they somehow manage to do so.
The Essential Commodities Act has been amended so that these trading monopolies can hoard as much agricultural produce as they want. Withdrawal of minimum support price (MSP) for the agricultural produce will force the peasants to sell to the private corporates at very low prices. The corporate houses are already building huge storage facilities that will enable them to hoard the produce until they can sell it to consumers at sky high prices.
These laws will lead to dismantling of the existing mandi system of APMCs (Agricultural Produce Market Committees). Once that happens, there will be no mechanism for procurement of foodgrain by the government. With the disappearance of government procurement, the public distribution system will also disappear. There will be no food grain stock with the government for taking care of natural calamities or to control food prices. While peasants will be hurt by the new farm laws, all workers and toilers of the country will be equally hurt by the consequences of these laws. The prices that we consumers will have to pay will force us to tighten our belts even further and drive more and more people to starvation.
The State has failed to perform its duty of ensuring decent returns to those who work. Only a small part of our country is irrigated. Every year, one section of peasants becomes poorer because of crop failure caused by low rainfall, drought, floods or pest attacks. Those who produce bumper crops also become poorer because the selling prices crash below their cost of production. Corporate monopolies who sell fertilisers, pesticides and other inputs keep raising their prices. The government keeps raising the price of diesel. Caught in the blades of rising prices of inputs and falling prices of their produce, lakhs of peasants fall into indebtedness and thousands commit suicide every year.
What the government needs to do is the opposite of what successive governments have been doing. The Swaminathan Commission, appointed by the Manmohan Singh government in 2004, recommended that the State must ensure that all crops are purchased at a price that is at least 50% above their full cost of production. This would be the MSP. This is what hundreds of peasant organisations all over the country have been demanding, but none of the governments have done that.
To ensure remunerative prices for farmers, it is essential for the central and state governments to become the principal purchasers of all farm produce. Right now only some wheat and rice is procured at the MSP. Every crop for which MSP is announced must be procured by the government to make sure that farmers always receive at least the MSP for their produce. Confining government procurement only to wheat and rice makes announcing MSP for other crops meaningless.
The public procurement system must be linked to an enlarged public distribution system that would ensure the availability of all essential consumption goods at affordable prices for all. Workers’ and peasants’ organisations and people’s committees in the villages and towns must monitor the public system and ensure that there are no leakages caused by private profiteers and corrupt officials.
Expanding public procurement and public distribution of agricultural products is the only way that peasants can be guaranteed a remunerative price and workers an affordable price. Successive governments headed by the Congress and BJP have refused to move in this direction because it does not suit the interests of the capitalist monopoly houses.
The unity of the entire working class with our peasants needs to be further strengthened to force the government to concede our demands!
All India Insurance Employees Association (AIIEA), All India Railwaymens Federation(AIRF), All India Railway Employees Confederation (AIREC) – Western Zone, All India Guards Council (AIGC), All India Loco Running Staff Association (AILRSA), All India Station Masters Association (AISMA), All India Rail Trackmaintainers Union (AIRTU), All India Train Controllers Association (AITCA), Cochin Refinery Employees Association(CREA-INTUC), General Insurance Employees All India Association (GIEAIA), Indian Railway Loco Runningmen Organisation (IRLRO), Indian Railway Ticket Checking Staff Organisation (IRTCSO), Kamgar Ekta Committee(KEC), Maharashtra State Bank Employees Federation(MSBEF), National Federation of Indian Railwaymen(NFIR). Petroleum and Gas Workers Federation of India (PGWFI)