III AIKMS Conference: Commoners Betrayed after Independence, says Prof Ravi Srivastava

On the second day of the delegate session of the third AIKMS conference noted economist from JNU, Prof. Ravi Srivastava, anguished that aspirations or better life among the common masses have been betrayed after independence. The egalitarian and the socialist ideas that had been adopted after independence and the structures that were built to implement them are being destroyed. Here’s a report.

The second day of the delegate session of the third AIKMS conference started with the address of the noted economist from Jawaharlal Nehru University Prof Ravi Srivastava. Prof Srivastava said that the AIKMS conference is taking place in times when all hopes for a better life among India’s common masses have been betrayed in the last 67 years since independence. The egalitarian and the socialist ideas that had been adopted after independence and the structures that were built to implement them are being destroyed.

Under the conditions there is a need for renewed struggle by the Indian people to regain their  dreams. Mentioning about the recent struggle by students at JNU and the University of Hyderabad, he said that the students of the country have raised anew the slogans for freedom from poverty, from hunger, caste and gender oppression; freedom to think and act independently, freedom from feudalism and capitalist loot. These slogans he said are now reverberating from many other universities like Jadavpur and Aligarh.

Coming to the present agrarian crisis in the country, he said that the last two years have been particularly bad for the farmers. Talking of the lakhs of farm suicides as an important symptom of this crisis he told that there have only been two periods in Indian history when large scale peasant suicides have been known – the first one being between 1850 – 1870, when the farmers were compelled to grow cash crops – cotton and indigo, in order to comply with the system of fixed land revenue that was imposed by the British. The second period he said started from 1995 onward after the implementation of policies favoring liberalisation, globalisation and privatisation. These policies, he said, were also implemented in the name of benefiting the farmers and the workers, but as the subsequent experience bears out, the results have been quite to the contrary.

The situation is such that when the international prices are high, rather than the farmers it is the middlemen who take all benefit through forward trading; and when the prices are low the farmers are any ways the main losers. He said that only about 3 percent of the farmers in the country are able to sell their harvest to the state agencies at minimum support price, which itself is non-remunerative. Among these three per cent farmers also it is the big and rich peasants who dominate. Same was the case with respect to availing of loans from public sector banks.

He said that while all the political parties that have come to power, have pursued the same policies, under



the present Modi government at the centre a vigorous attempt is being made to completely do away with whatever residual state support is left for the farmers. This he said is happening at time when one third of the country is reeling under drought. Farm households in different parts are going hungry, eating ‘ghas ki roti’ (grass bread), both men and women are forced to migrate to towns and cities to work as casual labourers.

The BJP government is making much noise of its recent budget promise to double the farm incomes in the next five years, but there is no policy regimen to implement this. However, they are good at shooting off some attractive slogans to hoodwink the people. Their single mantra for everything can be summarized, in what he said, was a JAM (‘Jan Dhan Yojna‘, bank account/Adhar card and Mobile phones) of policies that have failed to take off all together. The government in fact is telling white lies because to increase incomes the productivity of our farmers must increase and secondly, they must get a good price for their produce. Both of these are seriously endangered by the present policies. He mentioned that it is noteworthy that as much as 55 percent of agricultural area in the country is non-irrigated.

He said that we have heard the finance minister Arun Jately talk of JNU students and his brand of nationalism much more often, but it is difficult to recall as to when he spoke last of the agrarian crisis, the farmer’s suicides or the ongoing drought in the country. They are only busy trying to divide the people on sectarian lines and by raising non issues like ‘anti-nationalism.’ It is for this reason that they have turned against the students and all intellectuals with Left orientation.

Prof Srivastava concluded his speech by congratulating the delegates for successful conduct of their conference. Talking of the brave struggles that AIKMS has fought in Allahabad and Kaushambhi districts, he hoped that AIKMS shall build many more successful struggles on the problem of the peasants in the years to come.

After his speech, the document on ‘Conference call’ was adopted with voice vote by all delegates. This was preceded by a debate on the document in which 26 delegates gave their suggestions, all of which were incorporated into the document.

Thereafter, the outgoing Gen Sec of AIKMS, Com Sushanta Jha presented political and organizational review document for discussion among the delegates. The report criticised Modi government for surrendering the interests of Indian farmers before the imperialist countries in the latest round of WTO negotiations at Nairobi. The government of India has accepted cuts in subsidy to the farmers and has agreed to wind up the public sector procurement for the food security schemes in the country. To the contrary, the imperialist countries are providing huge subsidies to their farmers thus reducing the cost of their agricultural products; while on the other hand they are increasing the costs of inputs produced by their multinationals to rake in huge profits.

Report also mentioned several struggles taken up by AIKMS since its last national conference. The prominent among these was the struggle for successful capture of 22,667 acres of land by the tribal peasants in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. The landless peasants in Gurdaspur district of Punjab captured 1,524 acres of land belonging to the Mahants and the SGPC (Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee). Another16,423 acres of Nazul land (land of Muslims, who migrated to Pakistan and which belongs to the government now) was captured by Dalit peasants under the leadership of AIKMS in Sangrur district, Punjab. In Odisha AIKMS led the poor peasants in the capture of 10,000 acres of ceiling surplus and benami lands and land belonging to temples. Land struggles were also launched by AIKMS in Kaimur, Sasaram, Champaran and Muzaffarpur. In the Allahabad and Kausambhi districts about 1,500 acres of river bed land was captured by farmers of the boatmen caste.

Besides these struggles AIKMS led successful struggles of sand mine and stone quarry workers in Allahabad and Kausambhi. Anti-displacement struggles were led by AIKMS in Kalinganagar and Niyamgiri areas of Odisha, as also active participation in the POSCO struggle.

Some of the other struggles included those for rise of agricultural wages, struggle for remunerative prices for produce in Punjab; struggle against ‘coastal corridor’ and the ‘Polavaram Dam’ projects in Andhra Pradesh.

At the time of writing the report the discussion on the political and organisational report was still on.

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