FARMERS' STRUGGLE AGAINST CORPORATIZATION OF AGRICULTURE INTENSIFIES
UNDER the initiative of Sanyukta Kisan Morcha (Joint Farmers Front)m which coordinates more than 500 farmers’ organizations from all states of India and which includes All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), the famers in India are waging a relentless struggle against the three black Acts enacted by the RSS/BJP government bulldozing them through both houses of parliament, especially through the upper house, the Rajya Sabha where a vote was not allowed even when these bills had no majority support. These three Acts are: 1). Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020. 2). Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020. 3.) Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020. The farmers and all progressive agricultural experts like P Sainath were repeatedly explaining, and the farmers from their experience have learned that these Acts will put an end to government procurement of agricultural products, with frequently reviewed Minimum Support Price (MSP) through Agricultural produce Marketing Cooperatives (APMCs) and will throw them to the mercy of the giant corporates. When farmers are committing suicides in big numbers in most of the states due to economic crisis already, this corporatization, they fear, shall lead to their total ruin.
In India there is a regulatory system for food distribution that has been built up since the 60s. It consists of many Government regulated market yards (APMCs) all over the country. Farmers can take their produce to such market yards to avoid being cheated by the traders. The produce is weighed and sold at a price which is fixed by open auction. Further, the Government had set up the PDS (public distribution system) which provides ration to all citizens. For this the Government had to set a MSP (minimum support price) for each product – rice, wheat, pulses, etc – every year. The Government had to set up a procurement machinery. The FCI (Food Corporation of India) was set up which stores crores or tonnes of grains. Also corporations like the Warehousing corporation etc.
This was still felt to be insufficient both for the farmers and the consumers. For the farmers many commissions were set up. The Swaminathan Commission has suggested that the MSP should be fixed such that the farmer will get 50% profit over the cost of production. In fact the manifesto of the BJP in the last election had promised to implement this. For the consumers, after much struggle, under orders from the Supreme Court the Government of India has enacted, in September 2013 (effective July 2013), the National Food Security Act which promises to provide subsidized food-grains to two thirds of the population of India. All this was also not really sufficient. Farmers in our country are still among the poorest and people are still dying of hunger.
There has always been pressure from imperialist countries, through the WTO and other organisations, on our Govt. to dismantle this system. They wanted that food should be subject to an “open” market like any other commodity. In reality they know that food is the final captive market – human beings cannot live without food – and therefore they want to control this market.
The Modi Government has enacted laws which threaten even the meagre regulatory system. Big multinational food conglomerates are to be allowed to enter the market. The rules of the APMC will now be restricted to the premises within the four walls of the market yard. Outside the market yard the big corporations will be free to enforce their own writ. The effect on the farmers will be devastating. It is not only their produce that will be looted but the big corporates will enslave them by telling them what they should grow, what seed they should use, what fertiliser, etc. These laws were made unconstitutionally by Parliament though “agriculture” is a state subject
This will not only affect farmers (and of course the agricultural workers who are dependent on them) but also workers and the common persons. With the dismantling of APMCs and large corporations like Fci, millions of jobs will be lost. With the removal of price controls food inflation which is already very high will shoot through the roof. And the effect is not only economic. With big corporations controlling our economy the very democratic fabric of our country will be affected. For example, when large Government corporations are closed and private players move in thousands of reserved jobs will be lost. In short, these bills, like the labour codes, threaten the very independence and sovereignty of India – they threaten to obliterate the poor and weak sections of society and remove the very last vestige of democratic society that may exist.
When the Congress-led UPA government had initiated this move under pressure from the corporate forces, the farmers all over the country had started agitating and the UPA govt was forced to stop the move. The corporate like Ambani and Adani within the country, and MNCs heavily funded BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections and Modi govt came to power. But, as it had no majority in the upper house, its implementation was delayed. In 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, these three Acts were first issued as an Ordinance, without bothering for consulting the farmers’ organizations or opposition parties. Against this, the farmers, especially from Punjab and Haryana, where the farming is done in developed form and where they are best organized, had started protesting through various forms. Recently this same government has passed four labour codes which basically introduce “hire and fire” and remove many of the protections given to workers. Most trade unions (including those associated with the BJP and its partners) have been agitating against these. These were the cause of the major strike on 26th November.
On the same day in September that Parliament passed these labour codes, the three acts against farmers were also passed. Notably, the opposition had declared a boycott of parliament on that day and had called for a day of protest. All opposition parliament members were outside taking part in the protests. At such a time, these acts were pushed through both houses of parliament and made into laws.
Soon after this the AIKSCC which was formed against the Ordinance, launched state level campaigns and then various struggles while asking the central government to revoke them. At this time, the BJP government gave another blow to the farmers abolishing the subsidy they were getting for the electricity, and introduces the Electricity Bill 2020 which stipulates that the farmers also should give the pwer charges equal to industrialists. So, the agitation against the 3 Farm Acts and the Electricity Bill 2020 soon spread all over the country, and in Punjab and Haryana took massive forms. As the central government has enacted these laws in the field of agriculture, which is a state subject according to Constitution, the state governments led by opposition parties announced that they will not implement it. Still the fascist BJP government was not prepared to re-consider them. So, the AIKSC decided to give a Delhi Chalo call all organizations to send members to Delhi on 26-27 November.
Following all India campaign and public announcements when the farmers’ started marching to Delhi on 25th November, especially hundreds of thousands of them including very large number of women farmers from Punjab, who had already paralyzed the railway services through the state, at the behest of central government the BJP led Haryana govt put strong barricades, dug out the roads, and as the marchers were still moving ahead breaking all obstacles, they were water cannoned, lathi charged and hundreds of tear-gas shells were fired at them. Still, overcoming all these the farmers started reaching the borders of Delhi, the national capital. When they were asked to move to a ground near a Gurudwara (Sikh shrine), recognizing the trap to make it as an open jail, they refused. The very large number of farmers have come with their tractors and trailers with food for six months and cloths and bed to brave the very cold climate. This march by the farmers’ organizations and the general strike of tens of millions of workers on 26th November demanding the repeal of the four labour codes were a big challenge to the RSS/BJP forces.
Though three rounds of discussions took place with the government delegation, as the government is not ready to accept the four core demands, the AIKSC called for a Bharat Bandh on 8th December. All opposition parties, and revolutionary left organizations including CPI(ML) Red Star, along with a large number of class/mass organizations supported this call while large number of workers, students, youth, women and oppressed sections participated making it a great success. Roads into Delhi were blocked upto 3 pm and farmers and workers and youth held demonstrations in various parts of India. Angered by it, the home minister Amit Shah met the leaders of AIKSCC in the night and told them that only amendments shall be accepted, the anti-farmer Acts will not be repealed and Electricity Bill will not be withdrawn. Responding to this arrogant approach, the AIKSCC has called for intensifying the struggle making the protest programs countrywide, boycott all Jio, Reliance and Adani products including Sim cards, to block other roads to Delhi and close down all toll gates. It has become something like a do or die struggle, and in coming days various steps shall be taken to compel the government to accept the farmers’ demands.
What is happening is a mass upsurge of the farmers against the corporatization of agriculture to serve the crony capitalists like Ambani and Adani using Manuvadi Hindutva as an ideological cover. The farmers have decided to go forward with the struggle prepared to face all consequences. From 14th December the BJP offices will be gheraoed by the farmers. This is an all-out move to intensify the movement.
The Central Committee of CPI (ML) Red Star and all class/mass organizations in which party comrades are active, has extended full solidarity with the farmers’ struggle. The All India Krantikari Kisan Sabha (AIKKS). The Central Committee has called for focusing all activities in order to strengthen the farmers’ movement in the coming days also.) politically led by the party is a constituent in the AIKSCC. The Party has mobilized hundreds of farmers, agricultural workers and other sections and actively worked for the success of the Bharat Bandh.
If the corporate fascist government of Modi is thinking that this movement can be suppressed, it is going to be big folly for the RSS/BJP. It will only weaken the unity of the different peoples in this multi-national country. In this critical situation, CPI(ML) Red Star is trying to mobilize all like-minded forces to help the AIKSCC to achieve its demands.