“The Green Revolution, which led to the spread of capitalism in agriculture, is responsible for the present crisis of agriculture in our country”, said Dr Darshan Pal of the Krantikari Kisan Union, Punjab. He was addressing the second meeting organised by Mazdoor Ekta Committee (MEC) on September 30, on the theme: Crisis of Agriculture and its Solution.
Other invited speakers were Shri Birju Nayak, Secretary, MEC; Shri Abhimanyu Dhankar, National Secretary General, All India Federation of Power Diploma Engineers; Shri Thomas Franco, Joint Convenor, People First; Dr B Seth, retired professor and Shri AV Kanta Raju, National General Secretary, All India Railway Track Maintainers Union.
Those who participated in the meeting included activists from workers unions and kisan unions, women and youth activists as well as activists from among Indian workers in Britain and Canada.
Dr Darshan Pal highlighted the devastation in agriculture caused by the Green Revolution, which brought capitalist relations into agriculture in a big way. With capitalist investment increasing in all inputs, such as pesticides, insecticides and fertilisers and with increasing mechanisation, gradually the terms of trade became increasingly in favour of the big corporates and adverse to the farmers and all those who were working in agriculture. The symptoms of the crisis started becoming apparent.
Agricultural production stagnated, indebtedness of the kisans increased. Kisans began selling their land as agriculture become increasingly unable to provide kisans a livelihood, and started joining the ranks of the workers in the cities. More and more kisans have been driven to death by suicides, not only in Punjab but in Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and many other states. The present system cannot be expected to bring about any qualitative change in the conditions of kisans, he said, upholding the cooperative model for agriculture as the solution.
His opinion was that a political movement, including kisans as well as workers and all other sections of society, is needed to solve the problem of the agrarian crisis. Last year’s kisan andolan, led by the SKM, achieved such a political consolidation to some extent, and he was confident that this is the way forward. The movement is continuing, he explained, on the vital issues of debt relief, crop insurance, MSP, justice for the victims of Lakhimpur Kheri, and all the other unresolved demands of the kisans. He announced that on October 3, kisans will gather at Lakhimpuri Kheri in support of their demands. On November 26, kisans in Punjab will submit a memorandum to the governor, listing their demands. The central government and its anti-kisan, anti-worker, anti-people policies have to be challenged, he said. The period up to the central elections in 2024 should be used to mobilise all political forces in the country, towards an alternative to the present government, he concluded.
Shri Birju Nayak pointed out that the three anti kisan laws were brought in to provide a legal framework for corporate loot and the control over agriculture by the biggest Indian and foreign monopoly capitalist houses. Even though the laws were withdrawn, this control is tightening over all spheres, he explained, including inputs to agriculture, storage and transportation as well as procurement and the prices the kisans can get for their produce. He gave examples of the garlic growers of Madhya Pradesh, the apple growers of Himachal Pradesh, rice growers of Haryana and others, who are being brazenly looted by the big corporate houses. In the absence of a public distribution system, the monopoly capitalists control the prices of food and every essential commodity in the market. There is more than enough food produced to feed all the people, he pointed out, yet millions go hungry and die of starvation or malnutrition, as a result of this.
Birju Nayak emphasised that it is not just the present BJP government that works in the interests of the big corporate houses. Every party that forms the government defends their interests. What we need is a system that works to benefit the vast majority of the population. For this, he proposed that the state should provide inputs to kisans at subsidised rates, ensure procurement of all agricultural produce at remunerative prices and set up a public distribution system that will provide all food grains and essential goods at affordable prices.
Shri Abhimanyu Dhankar elaborated on the fact that the solution to the crisis in agriculture will, at the same time, lead to the solution of poverty, unemployment and every other problem in the society today. Industry and agriculture have to progress together. 70% of our population is employed in agriculture and unless agriculture can provide an assured livelihood to this huge section, the crisis will persist, he explained. He condemned the present trend of big monopoly corporate domination over agriculture as well industry. Shri Dhankar strongly advocated state assistance for agriculture, for providing adequate irrigation water, electricity supply and other inputs as subsidised costs, assured public procurement of all crops at remunerative prices as well as a public distribution system to fulfil the needs of food and all essential goods of all the people. He highlighted the struggle of the power sector workers against the Electricity Amendment Bill, which will ruin the kisans, and gave a powerful call for united struggle of workers and kisans against the corporate loot and plunder.
Shri Thomas Franco who has been actively involved in the struggle of bank workers against privatisation, spoke of how public sector banks have in the past played a role in assisting agriculture and the kisans. This role is now being greatly subverted, as public sector banks are under increasing pressure to reduce lending to small and marginal kisans, who need these loans the most. Monopoly capitalists such as Adani are teaming up with the State Bank of India, to form non-banking financial institutions which will provide loans to kisans at a much higher rate of interest. Lakhs of crores of rupees worth of loans to various defaulting capitalists are being written off by the public sector banks as NPAs, Franco said, demanding an immediate write-off of all existing debts of small and marginal farmers.
The solution to the agricultural crisis, said Franco, lies in a public credit guarantee scheme for kisans, end to the domination of private corporates over all aspects of agriculture and an integrated rural development program to be undertaken by the state, to ensure well being of all those involved in agriculture, including animal husbandry and fishing.
Dr B Seth point out that in our country the total annual production of food grains is nearly 275 million tonnes. The per capita production of food grains per day is more than 500 grams – which is sufficient to meet the average nutritional requirements; however, millions still die of malnutrition and hunger. The source of the crisis, he pointed out, lies in the fact that the existing system works only to benefit the wealthiest sections of society. The wealthiest 10% of the population possess more than 77% of the total national wealth; India’s 100 top billionaires saw their fortunes increase by Rs 12,97,822 crore in one year alone, since the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
90 % of the population, who create the wealth of society, are deprived of the fruits of their labour. The highest levels of technology are available, but none of this is deployed for advancing agriculture or improving the living and working conditions of people, he said. Dr Seth called for state control of wholesale trade to ensure remunerative prices for kisans and subsidised costs of agricultural inputs, as well as a public distribution system to ensure availability of all items of mass consumption at affordable prices.
Shri Kanta Raju spoke of the struggle of the track maintainers of the Indian railways against their extremely difficult and hazardous conditions of work. Inspite of the high level of technology available, hundreds of trackmen die every year, due to the utter callousness of the authorities and the government.
Workers and kisans today are on a common platform of struggle against the big monopoly corporates, who are trying to dominate agriculture as well as other sectors of manufacturing and industrial production, in order to loot the working people and enhance their profits, said Kanta Raju. He complimented MEC for this initiative of bringing kisans and workers together. He pledged the full participation of his organisation, All India Railway Track Maintainers Union, in the struggle for an end to the crisis facing our society.
Following the presentations by the invited speakers, many other participants intervened with their views.
“How can a kisan family survive on an income of less than Rs 5000 per month?” asked a young worker. Today India is among the most advanced countries of the world and we produce so much of food and have the most modern technology. But the ruling capitalist class headed by the biggest monopoly capitalist houses dominates over the entire production process. As a result, their wealth keeps increasing while the condition of the workers and kisans gets worse, he said.
Participants raised the concerns of dairy farmers. Several participants gave their views on the challenges facing the kisan andolan, and what needs to be done to resolve the crisis facing agriculture. Many expressed the view that workers and kisans have to organise to take political power in their hands in order to ensure that the crisis of agriculture is resolved in the interests of the vast majority of the population.
Concluding the meeting, Shri Santosh Kumar recalled the important lessons that the kisan andolan has taught us. One of the lessons is to preserve and strengthen our unity and to be firm in our resolve to end this system of capitalist exploitation which is the source of the problems facing workers and kisans. We workers and kisans and must unite to take political power in our hands and establish a new society in which we will be the rulers and decision-makers, and we will reorient the economy to serve the needs of all the toilers, he concluded.