Meeting organised by Mazdoor Ekta Committee
“The crisis of agriculture affects all sections of society and is of great concern for the working class”, declared Santosh Kumar, on behalf of Mazdoor Ekta Committee (MEC). He was chairing an online meeting on 11th September on the theme: Crisis of Agriculture and its Solution.
The speakers at the meeting were Shri Birju Nayak, Secretary, Mazdoor Ekta Committee; Shri Buta Singh Burj Gill, President, Bharatiya Kisan Union Ekta (Dakaunda); Shri Shailendra Dubey, National President, All India Power Engineers Federation (AIPEF); Dr B Seth, retired professor and Shri Sanjay Pandhi, Working President, Indian Railway Loco Runningmen Organisation.
Introducing the speakers, Santosh Kumar pointed out that Shri Buta Singh had been in the forefront of the historic, more than one year long kisan protest at the borders of Delhi. He welcomed the fact that speakers included representatives of workers in electricity and railways and a distinguished professor, and that hundreds of participants had joined from all across the country and from abroad.
The participants included kisans, workers, youth and women from different professions and walks of life. They included workers’ and kisan union activists from Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Bihar, Punjab, Rajasthan, UP and many other parts of the country, as well as activists from the Indian emigrant workers in Britain and Canada.
Birju Nayak elaborated on the growing domination of the big Indian and foreign monopoly capitalist houses over agriculture, starting from inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, electricity and water for irrigation, to the procurement of crops and the prices that the kisans get for their produce, and right up to the prices of products in the market. He pointed out that the big monopoly capitalist corporate houses have massive storage and transportation facilities and can effectively dictate the prices at which the produce is procured and sold in the market. They can export the produce they procure at high prices in the global market and thus reap fabulous profits. He gave an example to show that the government works in the interest of the biggest capitalists. While the Indian government has suddenly announced a ban on wheat exports on May 13, catching most wheat exporters off-guard, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries was issued a bank guarantee before that date to enable it to quickly become India’s second largest exporter of wheat.
The solution to the crisis in agriculture that Birju Nayak proposed is for the state to ensure subsidised inputs to the kisans, guaranteed procurement of all crops at remunerative prices, debt relief and a public distribution system that will guarantee adequate and good quality supply of all food items as well other articles of mass consumption.
Shri Buta Singh Burj Gill presented several details to explain the course of Indian agriculture, over the past 3-4 decades, leading up to the present crisis. The Green Revolution enabled the building of a self-reliant economy and it also improved the conditions of agricultural labour, he said. However, it promoted crops which required more irrigation, chemical fertilisers and pesticides, crops more prone to pests and diseases. It also destroyed the fertility of the soil and ruined its potential for multiple cropping. Many kisans had dreamt that the Green Revolution would yield greater profits for them. But instead of resolving the crisis of agriculture, the Green Revolution distorted and destroyed agriculture and the kisans in Punjab.
The central government had tried to bring in the three anti kisan laws which would strengthen the stranglehold of the Indian and foreign corporate houses over agriculture. We fought for more that a year and mobilised kisans all over Punjab and other states, and succeeded in forcing the government to withdraw the laws. But the government has not implemented any of the demands it promised, as a condition for our withdrawing the agitation at the Delhi borders. So, we will need to agitate again. We have to strengthen the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) to take up the struggle.
Debt relief for the kisans is a major demand, he pointed out. There is need for an overall plan of the state for agriculture – how much of what is to be grown in which place, at what price will the state procurement agencies buy the produce, what will be the storage, transportation and public distribution mechanisms, etc. It is not enough to talk of MSP, because MSP is being given only for wheat and rice; all other agricultural produce also needs to be procured by the government at remunerative prices. Unless such steps are taken, the crisis of agriculture cannot be resolved. Buta Singh Burj Gill passionately appealed for unity of the working class with the kisans. Only if agriculture and industry together work with the perspective of well-being of the whole society, can we hope to resolve this crisis.
In his address to the meeting, Shri Shailendra Dubey drew attention to the militant struggles that power engineers and employees all over the country have been waging to prevent the Electricity Amendment Bill 2022 from being tabled in the Parliament in its present form. The Bill is aimed at enabling private companies to take over electricity distribution using the distribution networks of the state discoms. The monopoly capitalists want the Bill to be passed, in order to facilitate their domination over electrical power distribution all over the country, to reap enormous profits.
The Electricity Amendment Bill will have devastating consequences for the kisans, he pointed out. Kisans will not be able to afford electricity for operating their pump-sets for irrigation and other agricultural machinery; they will be driven further into debt, bankruptcy and ruin. Making common cause with the struggle of the kisans, he called for greater state subsidies in agricultural inputs. Declaring the Electricity Amendment Bill as kisan-virodhi, samaj virodhi, he called for a united and concerted struggle demanding withdrawal of the Bill. He announced that electricity workers from all over the country would come together in a massive protest action at New Delhi on November 23, to take the struggle forward.
Prof B Seth made a power point presentation to explain the crisis of agriculture and propose a solution. There are two aspects to this crisis, he pointed out. Majority of kisans are not able to get sufficient returns from agricultural production to secure a decent living. At the same time, a very large majority of the workers in the cities are unable to afford nutritious food in adequate quantity. The average income of a kisan family is less than Rs 5000 per month. Some of the major factors for this, he pointed out, are high costs of essential inputs such as seeds, fertilisers, diesel, electricity, etc; low procurement prices; lack of protection from natural calamities and the growing burden of debt on a vast majority of the kisans. He exposed the much-publicized PMFBY (Pradhan Mantri Fasal Beema Yojana) as aimed at enabling the private insurance companies to make huge profits as the cost of the kisans.
Prof B Seth highlighted the growing domination of Indian and foreign monopoly capitalist houses over the entire agricultural process, which is ruining the kisans and driving workers in the cities to starvation.
Shri Sanjay Pandhi raised the very important point that government policies do not work in the interests of the majority of people, whether in the cities or in the villages. These policies are aimed at enabling the big corporate houses to fill their treasure chests by looting both kisans and workers. He gave several suggestions on how industrial workers and experts could render professional assistance to the kisan unions. As an activist of the engine drivers in the Indian Railways, who are militantly opposing the government’s attempts to privatise the railways, he called for a united struggle of workers and kisans.
After the main speakers had presented their views, there were more than ten interventions from various participants.
The representative of the Workers’ Unity Movement, Tamil Nadu, highlighted the need to break free of the stranglehold of the various political parties in Parliament, which are intent of dividing us and fooling us with false promises. He said such parties work consistently to maximise the profits of the monopoly capitalist houses. He called for worker-kisan unity around their own agenda of building a society in which the well-being of the whole society will be paramount, not the profits of the corporate houses.
Hanuman Prasad Sharma from the Kisan-Mazdoor-Vyapari Sangharsh Samiti in Rajasthan, elaborated on the crisis of agriculture. He pointed out that the only solution was for workers and kisans to unite against their common enemy, the monopoly corporate houses whose interests the Indian state defends. Workers and kisans have to take political power in their own hands and build a society that will guarantee sukh and suraksha to all.
Salvinder Dhillon of the Ghadar International, Great Britain, pointed out that the struggle of the workers in Britain, as of the workers and kisans in India, is a struggle against the capitalist system, dominated by the biggest monopoly capitalist houses. He called for political power in the hands of the workers and kisans, as the only way out of the crisis.
S Das of Kamgar Ekta Committee appealed in favour of building a powerful united movement of workers and kisans, to take political power in our hands, as the only way to resolve the crisis of Indian society, including the crisis of agriculture and the devastation of all the productive forces of society.
Dharam Pal Singh, Chairman of the All India Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Samiti, said that the only way to ensure that agriculture works in the interests of the whole society is to work for the rule of the workers and kisans.
Other participants spoke of the monopoly control over all aspects of agriculture, the problems of dairy farmers, the growing indebtedness and soaring incidences of kisan suicides, the impoverishment of small land owners and the growing landlessness. A young worker from an industrial area in Delhi referred to a recent report on increasing number of suicides among daily wage workers in the cities. Both workers and kisans are facing terrible insecurity of livelihood, and it is the capitalist system that is responsible for this. We workers and kisans, who produce the wealth of society, have to become the masters of society, he declared.
Summing up the proceedings, Santosh Kumar thanked the speakers and all the participants for their valuable presentations and suggestions. Upholding the principle that “An attack on one is an attack on all!” Mazdoor Ekta Committee will continue to hold many more such meetings, he declared. Our aim is to bring workers and kisans on a common platform, for building a society that will protect the interests and well-being of workers and kisans and all the oppressed and exploited, he concluded.