All India Peasants’ Conference at Faizabad

The CPI(ML)-led peasant associations in different states have been quite active in organising protests of the peasantry who are reeling under the adverse impact of globalisation. In order to give a sharper orientation to the peasant movement against globalisation and coordinate it at the national level, the Party organised an All India Kisan Conference at Faizabad on March 2. Inaugurating the conference, Polit Bureau Member of CPI(ML), Comrade Swadesh Bhattacharya stressed the need for a broad-based peasant movement and formulation of a revolutionary programme for agrarian reforms in the country. He said that instead of adopting an agricultural policy that would address the needs of the Indian peasant, the BJP-led Government had been pursuing a policy capitulating to the interests of the WTO, and in tune with the globalised economy. He said that the Govt. had already given up the agenda of agrarian reforms and the ruling classes in India had completely failed in developing an agricultural policy that could be in the interest of the Indian peasant. He said that in a country like India, which heavily depended on agriculture, the present crisis in agriculture spelt doom for the nation. He said that the very section of Indian farmers who are supposed to have overcome their crisis through green revolution and white revolution etc. are again facing a grim situation and are being forced to commit suicide.

He further said that the BJP-led government has become a government of disinvestments. In the name of disinvestment, the government has left the Indian market open to imperialists. Steel, communication, bank, insurance, electricity and other public sector industries have been sold for a song in the name of disinvestment. The government is destroying the economy, culture and social life of the country. He said that the Congress had taken 25 years to bring the country to such a pass and the BJP has already surpassed it in 5 years.

Com. Bhattacharya emphasised that it was necessary for the forces that are engaged in grassroots struggles and those are involved in doing intellectual work in this field, to form a broad-based unity based on struggle so as to give impetus to the farmers’ movement. He said that Faizabad had a glorious tradition of democratic struggles which was being tarnished by the Sangh Parivar.

The former Commerce Secretary to the Government of India and India’s representative in GATT negotiations, Mr.SP Shukla said that some villains were historically responsible for today’s crisis in agriculture. “The very day these villains are fully exposed, we will be able to proceed towards a solution to the crisis”, he said. He added that the conditionalities of the WTO and other international institutions could be effective in the country only to the extent that our Government wanted them to be. It is the Indian Government which is too eager to have them implemented. Therefore, we have to wage a powerful struggle against the Government. Mr. Shukla dwelt at length on the imperialist design to include the agricultural sector within the ambit of the terms and conditions of the WTO. He said that our farmers could not compete with their counterparts in America because the amount of subsidy granted to them was much more than that granted to our farmers. He said that almost 70% of our farming was small or marginal farming, our agricultural policy must aim at the development of this part and land reforms must remain the basis of this development. He pointed out that if the corporate world enters the agricultural sector, employment opportunities in this sector would drastically decrease. He called for vehement opposition to the agricultural policy both inside and outside the Parliament.

Former Naval Chief, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat said that our Government is forcing our farmers to compete with the American farmers in the open market. He explained his point saying that while the American Government was giving 9-10 thousand crore dollars as subsidy per day to the American farmer, the Indian Government grants only about 5-7 thousand crore rupees subsidy to the Indian farmer per year! He also said that on milk costing 1400 dollars per ton, the subsidy being given in the US was 1000 dollars per ton. How could the Indian farmer compete with his American counterpart in such conditions, he asked. Admiral Bhagwat said that there seemed to be no coordination between the Ministries and departments of the Indian Government. He said that the Government was working against the interests of the Nation and our Constitution. Anyway, Hitlers never had any need to follow constitutions, he quipped.

Com. Akhilendra Pratap Singh, State Secretary of UP and PB member of the CPI(ML) welcomed all delegates and Guests who had come to attend the Conference. In his welcome address he emphasised the need for all forces of struggle -- both at the ground level and on a theoretical plane -- to come together on a common platform. He said unless the crisis in the agrarian sector was resolved it was impossible to safeguard the unity and freedom of our country. He said that it is in this sense that Naxalbari retains its relevance even today.

Others who spoke on the occasion were kisan leader OP Tandon, Dr. Shabbar, Ishwar Chandra Tyagi, Rajaram, Srilata Swaminathan, Shri Nihaluddinn of the AIMF, educationist Krishnawtar Pandey etc. The Conference was presided over by Rajaram Singh, MLA, Amar Yadav, Ishwari Prasad Kushwaha, Mahendra Singh, Khitish Biswal, Secy. Orissa, Ambarish Rai and Ajit Das. Delegates from UP, Bihar, WB, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttaranchal, Jharkhand, AP, Chattisgarh, etc. numbering almost 500 participated.

On 3 March, a massive kisan rally was organised at Gulabadi Maidan at 12 p.m. The rally was addressed by ex-PM Shri. V.P.Singh. Mr. Singh condemned the arrest of Com.Dipankar Bhattacharya in Ranchi. He said that the Jharkhand Government should apologise for this act, release him unconditionally, and withdraw all cases against the leader. He said that this large gathering showed that the times are changing. Today farmers are not getting electricity. The Government has to pay Rs.190 crores per month as counter guarantee to Enron. The cost of electricity supplied by it comes to Rs. 7.20 per unit. Already Rs.60 crore were spent in conducting training for those who would work in this project. He said that the Rs.5000-crore BALCO was sold off for Rs.500 crore. He said that governments have changed but the times must change; and only those who are prepared to sacrifice their all can bring about change. He said that in the present system of democracy, the ruling class repeats a farce just like any rehearsal. This must stop. Peoples’ Power should be established. The Party of big businessmen and traders has got into an alliance with international trade-giants through the WTO. Quantitative restrictions on 714 items including those related to agriculture have been lifted under the WTO conditionalities. The WTO is the biggest fraud that we have seen till now, he said. In America and Europe, $363 billion are given as subsidy to farmers but our Government is withdrawing subsidies in the agricultural sector; does this Government represent the poor peasants or the foreign powers, he asked. Is India proceeding on the road to prosperity or is it heading towards its doom, he asked. He said that ultimate power lies in the hands of the common people -- they must punish those who stand guilty. We do not want a Government which surrenders (majboor), rather, we want a Government which is strong (majboot). He said there are several struggles to be waged -- for the right to employment, for the rights of the weavers, and so on -- those who are facing the onslaught of globalisation. The rally was also addressed by JD(S) MLA from MP, Mr.Suneelam.

A 22-member committee of the All India Kisan Struggle Committee was formed with Com. Pawan Sharma, CCM, CPI(ML), as Convenor. The conference issued a call to observe April 1, the day on which the QRs were abolished, as protest day and different forms of protests were organised in different parts of the country.

–Purushottam Sharma

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