The condition of peasants is growing from bad to worse in all parts of the country. Growing domination of capitalist monopolies, withdrawal of State support in the name of liberalisation, and the cash crunch created by the Note Ban have all added to the misery of the peasants. The following are some cases which have hit the news in recent weeks.
Sugarcane growers in UP
India is the second largest producer of sugar in the world, accounting for 17% of global production. Uttar Pradesh accounts for 40% of the sugar produced in India. While the profits of capitalist sugar mill owners have been growing, the peasants who grow the sugarcane are in extremely dire straits. They have not been paid for the crops they have delivered.
The sugarcane harvest season started from November, and the peasants have been supplying cane to the sugar mills for the past three months. They have received payments only for 10 days’ worth of supply!
The price of sugar, after staying almost unchanged for a period, has started rising in the domestic and world markets. The sugar mill owners are stocking up their output, waiting for prices to rise even further. They are making the peasants wait for their payments. Peasants are being made to suffer so that capitalists can rake in maximum profits.
The Sugarcane Crop Management Committee (SCMC), appointed by the Government of Uttar Pradesh, is supposed to mediate between the mill owners and cane growers. The SCMC makes sure that the sugar mills are guaranteed adequate and timely supply of cane in the crushing season, from the prescribed catchment area of each sugar mill. It does nothing to guarantee prompt payment to the cane growers for the crops they have delivered.
Prime Minister Modi had promised to solve the problem of sugarcane growers but nothing has changed. On Independence Day 2016, he lied to the people that 95% sugarcane farmers had received their dues. On the same day, peasants had blocked many sugar mills in western UP for non-payment of their dues.
Arhar growers in Vidarbha, Maharashtra
The price received by peasants in February last year was as high as Rs. 9000 per quintal in the traditional arhar bowl of Maharashtra’s Vidarbha region. It has now fallen to Rs. 4250 per quintal, less than the so-called Minimum Support Price announced by the central government.
Arhar dal is one of the widely consumed pulses which have been in short supply and whose retail price has been rising consistently year after year in our country. After having failed to do anything for many years, Government of India acted a year ago by hiking the effective procurement price (Minimum Support Price plus bonus) for arhar from Rs 4,625 to Rs 5,050 per quintal for the 2016-17 crop season. It stands exposed as merely a symbolic act, given the fact that peasants are not receiving this so-called guaranteed minimum price.
Production has increased in 2016-17 and so have imports. Stocks with traders have gone up. The price paid to peasants has crashed. Peasants who had responded to the government’s call to devote more of their land for arhar naturally feel betrayed today.
Drought in Tamil Nadu
All districts of Tamil Nadu have been officially declared as drought-affected. While it is officially reported that 17 farmers have committed suicide, peasant unions have disputed this number. They say the number of peasant suicides is more than 140 in the last two months.
Peasants faced with drought have been left to fend for themselves. The state government is caught in a bitter power struggle within the ruling party and chaos in the legislative assembly. Peasants are angry at the total lack of support from the State.
The Note Ban has further fueled the rising anger in rural Tamil Nadu, where farmers depend on co-operative banks for loans. The RBI disallowed the cooperative banks to accept deposits of the banned notes. Peasants and large-scale farmers were forced to deposit their savings in commercial banks. Limits on cash withdrawal are too low compared to the cash requirements of farming.