Farmers Protest the Ruination of their Lives

The following write-up is the English translation of the Marathi language leaflet brought out by the Pune branch of New Socialist Alternative

‘New Socialist Alternative’ supports and actively participates in the nationwide farmers’ protest called today on 25 and the Bharat Bandh on 28th September. In the last few years, the agitation of farmers across the country has intensified. Farmers are constantly taking to the streets in various forms from strikes to long marches. On the one hand, it is clear that brutal attacks of capitalist policies are compelling not just the workers but also farmers to take to the streets. On the other hand, the social base against the capitalist attacks of the Modi government in power is widening. This movement is important in this regard.

The real motives –
The main objective of the three laws passed in Parliament by the Central Government is to pave the way for private corporate capital to gain control over the entire agriculture chain from production to distribution of the farm produce. Of these, the Agricultural Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act allows private companies, bulk buyers to have a private market system that allows them to purchase goods directly, bypassing the current market system through the Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs). The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act removes control over the stockpiling of food grains and the profiteering that results from it, giving them access to stocks and the black market. The third law allows for corporate farming, that is, contract farming under the control of corporate companies.

Considering the recent economic developments and the class character of the ruling BJP, the real purpose behind these laws is clear. Now it is more than a decade since corporate capital has entered into the retail business with a plethora of malls selling agricultural commodities, foods in India. Also, in the recent past, financial capital has flowed into the sector through a number of small and large start-ups, such as Big-Basket for the delivery of vegetables, fruits and food grains. The functioning of market committees constituted under State governments though was limited, it was still a hindrance to their interests. Hence, the corporate sector has been demanding and lobbying hard for these legislations to open up agricultural marketing for a long time.

‘Karlo India Muthi Mein’
Of course, it is no coincidence that the Modi government carried out the historic task of fulfilling the long-cherished aspirations of the capitalists. This regime has not only come to power on the strength of big corporates including Ambani-Adani, but its survival too depends on continuously serving them. Modi-Shah led BJP has thus served their masters well bypassing these laws to hand over the agricultural sector to exploit it for their profits. In the last few months, Ambani’s Reliance has been playing a major role in capturing India’s retail sector through Jio; raising funding of almost 21 billion dollars. The retail turnover of the country is around Rs 7 lakh 65 thousand crores. From Reliance takeover of Future Group to its ongoing negotiations with Amazon, Ambani’s strategy to take over the sector is similar to what Jio did in Telecom. At the same time, the interests of big companies like Adani Wilmer and ITC in the commodity trade and food processing industry are also involved. The Adani Group has already struck a deal with Wilmer; a leading Asian Agri-industry company based in Singapore. And it is keen to dominate the country’s oil processing sector. Ambani, Adani and huge corporate giants in this way are desperately eager to take over the entire agro chain; from agricultural production to the market. The new laws in the field of agriculture and labour are for those who have such ‘Karlo India Muthi Mein’ intentions.

Need to reject laws in unison –
The government, their experts and their puppet media is sowing the seed of a dream that the farmers will be free than ever, as they will be able to sell their products to anyone. It is, of course, a blatant lie. Where Vodafone and Idea could not compete with Jio, how can the farmer stand up to corporates that are sometimes bigger than the economies of many countries combined together, and give them a fair price for their goods? By controlling retail, food processing, warehouses and cold storages, it is needless to say that a monopoly will be established on it. These laws are as dangerous for consumers as they are for farmers. It should not be forgotten how big traders and companies, in 2016, robbed the people by hoarding, black marketing and raising the price of Toor dal to Rs. 200. Adani’s involvement in this has been pointed out. Therefore, we need to get united to reject these laws.
An appeal to a broader movement, not a limited one.

Against this backdrop, ‘New Socialist Alternative’ participates in this nationwide protest. But at the same time, it should be noted that these agitations would be limited if they continue to sideline the interests, demands of small, marginal peasants, landless labourers. According to the Agriculture Survey of 2015-16, 86% of the farmers in the country are small landholders owning less than 2 hectares of land. Peasant agitations focused around MSP (Minimum support price) obviously undermine their interests. Also, the issue of unequal ownership of land and water by big farmers cannot be rolled under the carpet. The issue of land distribution is important for the landless agricultural labourers mostly hailing from Dalit castes. Program to undertake co-operative farming which is the only way that agriculture could be viable for most of the peasantry with active State investment and support is needed to alleviate the severe agrarian crisis. Agitations around limited demands of debt waivers and guaranteed prices will not help much. It should also focus on the employment of youth in rural-semi-urban areas. It is possible to create crores of jobs in rural semi-urban areas by setting up food processing industries on a cooperative basis. More importantly, these farm bills are passed along with draconian changes in labour laws reducing workers to the modern form of slavery. It can not be looked as a separate issue. A joint struggle based on the program of transitional demands could build a broader movement against brutal attacks on labourers and peasants.

New Socialist Alternative, Pune