A Conference was held at Ammapettai, near Thanjavur in Tamilnadu to discuss problems faced by peasants and the way forward. It discussed burning issues facing the peasants, including problem of lack of water for irrigation of crops in the dry regions, the absence of a assured Minimum Support Price for all crops, and the absence of storage and other infrastructure facilities.
The conference was organized by Thalanmai Uzavar Iyakkam. It was attended by representatives of peasant and workers organisations as well as progressive personalities who have been closely connected with the day to day struggle of the peasantry for survival.
Speakers pointed out that the peasants of India have been incessantly demanding guaranteed Minimum Support Price for all agricultural produce. . The MSP set by the government must be remunerative for the peasants and protect their livelihood. Speakers pointed out that the government announces MSP for 23 crops. However, in many cases, the MSP announced does not even cover the cost of production. Furthermore, the government refuses to give a legal guarantee that it will procure the produce of the peasants at the announced MSP. On the other hand, the government is working to ensure that the monopoly capitalists capture the agricultural market and make huge profits. Peasant leaders expressed their resolve to fight for the rights of the peasants and win the guaranteed remunerative price from the government.
Er K. Thirunavukarasu of Thalanmai Uzavar Iyakkam explained to the conference the experience of a committee that had focused on the issue of ensuring water for irrigation of crops particularly in the dry areas. The Committee included well known water management technologists and agricultural specialists. Although this committee has submitted its findings and recommendations to the Government of TN almost a year back, government has not implemented even its basic, cost effective and simple recommendations. With adequate data to support its recommendations, the committee has proposed many methods for the preservation of rain water in the dry areas of the state. It has suggested deepening, de-silting and raising the height of the existing water storage facilities as well as setting up check dams, ponds and lakes for water preservation.
Speakers called upon the government to ensure speedy implemention of these reccomendations. Speakers took up the question of lack of storage facilities for agricultural produce. There is shortage of storage facilities for rice, other grains and horticultural produce. A huge amount of agricultural produce is wasted every year due to lack of proper storage and refrigeration facilities, they said. While government is promoting big capitalists to enter into agricultural trade and storage, it is intentionally refusing to build storage and godown facilities for use of peasants. In Tamilnadu, we have seen that the rains spoil the paddy stored in the open fields of the godowns of the Food Corporation of India. The authorities are least concerned about this colossal waste of national product every year. Speakers demanded that the government set up adequate storage facilities for agricultural produce.
Speakers also demanded that the government should set up agricultural machinery centers with all modern equipments and machineries which can be lent to the peasants freely or at nominal cost. This can reduce the expenditure burden on the peasants. Speakers pointed out the funds needed for building proper storage facilities for agricultural produces and machinery centers at all the agricultural regions is not much when compared with the loan and tax waivers given to the big capitalists every year.
Among those who addressed the Conference were Thiru P Kalaivanan, Asst Director of Agriculture (Rtd), Er M Sekar – Irrigation water management training Institute, Trichy, Er. S. Palanirajan of Samaveli Vivasayeegal Sangam, Er. A Rajaraman – Superintending Engineer (PWD) – Rtd, Com Saravana Muthuvel of Taminadu Vivasayigal Sangam, Com Thanga Kannan, Reconstructor of Lakes, Com Baskar of Thozhilalar Ottrumai Iyakkam, Com Kaliappan of Makkal Adhikaram, Com Arunachalam of Communist Party – People’s Liberation, and Com Durai Madhivanan of Thalanmai Uzavar Iyakkam. The Conference concluded with determination to build the fighting unity of the peasants around their demands.