Monday, January 26, 2015

Farmers Angry with NDA Government Policies on Agriculture- Planned a Massive Demonstration on 18 March: BKU

Press Release
24th January 2015

Farmers Angry with NDA Government Policies on Agriculture-
Planned a Massive Demonstration on BKU

The farmers unions affiliated with the All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM) met for 2 days at the Punjab Bhawan in New Delhi under the chairmanship of Shri Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, President Bhartiya Kissan Union, Punjab. During this meeting, the farmers leaders from 12 farmers unions intensely discussed the current burning issues in Indian agriculture which included, the Land Acquisition Act Ordinance, NDA government U-Turn in the WTO, the recent report of the Shanta Kumar High Level Committee for restructuring FCI, and others. The meeting started with a 2 minutes silence to mourn suicide by hundreds of farmers during the current NDA government regime. The farmers suicide in India are continuing despite many promises by the Narendra Modi before the election that he would work for the Indian farmers. However after becoming Prime Minister, he expressed no concern for agrarian crisis and continuing farmers suicides. During NDA Government since May 2014, more than 7000 farmers have committed suicide.

During this 2 days meeting, farmers leaders focussed on some key issues which are of great concern and they made the following demands to the NDA government to express their frustration with  this government agrarian policies. These are:

1.    Withdraw Land Ordinance (Dec 2014): Farmers Reject the Ordinance to Amend the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013, promulgated on 30 December 2014. This Ordinance completely reversed all pro-farmers provisions of this Act, which was achieved after a long struggle since 1894. The present Ordinance brought the Land Acquisition Act back to the 1894 level, rather worse than that. If it gets passed in the Parliament, it will be a completely Pro-Industry and an Anti Farmer Act. The AICCFM farmers demanded to withdraw this Ordinance and effectively implement the 2013 Act on Land Acquisition. 
2.    Provide Remunerative Price for Farmers Produce and Implement C2+50: Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), in its manifesto (2014) announced to provide remunerative price for farmers produce and to implement Swaminathan Report’s (2005) recommendation to provide MSP based on Cost of production (C2) plus 50% as premium as the procurement price for 23 crops announced every year. Despite coming into power for more than 240 days, NDA government has made No attempt to implement Swaminathan report and no substantial increase was made in the MSP announced in 2014. We demand from the NDA government to fulfil its commitment as announced in its manifesto and provide remunerative price for farmers produce.
3.    Farmers Reject Shanta Kumar High Level Committee Report and Recommendation on Restructuring FCI: Farmers organisations present at the meeting were quite outraged at the Anti-Farmers and Anti Food Security recommendations of the High Level Committee (HCL) on restructuring of Food Corporation of India (FCI). BJP again made a U-turn on its promise made in the manifesto which favoured universal food security. But the recommendations of HCL completely revered this position. It says FCI to step out of procurement operations as well as to dilute the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to reduce its coverage from present 67% to 40% which would be disastrous not only for the livelihood of millions of farmers but will affect food security of the millions of India’s landless, poor and destitutes. And in order to finish the MSP system, this committee recommends bringing in the cash transfer in the food security programme.
4.    Write off all farm loans: Today the increasing farmers suicide indicate that Indian farmers are still under huge loan burden from institutional sources and private moneylenders. Farmers leaders demanded that the NDA government must write off all institutional loans of farmers. Government must also instruct public Banks and Cooperatives banks to give fresh loans to farmers at 0% interest.
5.    Institute Government Policy to compensate loss due to Natural Calamity: Farmers leaders demanded that the NDA government bring in a Union Policy to compensate farmers for the crop loss due to natural calamity. There should be a clear-cut provision for irrigated and non-irrigated farmers for compensation. The Government must also institute an Emergency Fund to provide compensation to farmers on an urgent basis in case of crop loss due to natural calamities, like floods, heavy rains and drought.
6.    No Trade Liberalization in Agriculture: The NDA government Must not allow any trade liberalization in agricultural goods through WTO or FTAs. Due to the huge loss of Indian farmers because of subsidised imports of agricultural goods from developed countries, farmers demand from Indian government to move a proposal in the WTO to remove Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). Farmers also demanded that agriculture related provisions from all FTAs negotiated by the Indian government must be dropped.    
7.    Institute Farmers Pay Commission: Farmers demanded from the NDA government to institute a Farmers Minimum Income Guarantee Commission to provide income support to farmers. Through this commission, government must ensure income to farmers which is equal to the salary of a 4th Grade government employees to help them live a dignified life.
8.    NO GMOs: The Farmers unions like to remind the NDA government to fulfil their promise made in their manifesto not to allow field trials, commercialisation or import of any Genetically Engineered seeds or crops or trees.
9.     Pay Arrears to Sugarcane Farmers: The sugarcane farmers have not received their arrears for last two years. The farmers leaders demanded that instead of forcing sugar industries to pay to farmers, the government instead pay all arrears due to sugarcane farmers immediately and collect the same from the industries.

The farmers’ leaders are completely dissatisfied with the way the present NDA government is dealing with the agrarian issues. All the achievements made in last several decades in the interest of the Indian farmers have been undone in last 240 days of NDA government. Therefore all the farmer unions associated with All India Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements decided to ORGANISE A MASSIVE RALLY AND DEMOSTRATION ON WEDNESDAY, 18th March 2015 at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi.  One Lakh farmers from all over India will converge in Delhi to put pressure on the government to accept their demands.


Ch. Rakesh Tikait,
National Spokesman,

Yudhvir Singh
General Secretary,

Ratan Singh Mann
BKU President

Rajvir Singh
Ajmer Singh Lakhowal,
State President,
BKU Punjab,

Chamarasa Patil
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka

Vijender Singh
BKU, Haryana

KT Gangadhar
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka
KS Puttanaiah (MLA),
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka

K. Sella Mutthu,
President, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, Tamil Nadu

Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi,
Tamil Nadu Farmers Association

Ms. Rajariga
President, Women Wing,
Tamil Nadu Farmers Association

Friday, January 16, 2015

Building Bridges with MST

Building Bridges with MST

In the past year, LVC India built solidarity through three knowledge exchanges with our comrades from the Landless Workers  Movement (MST), in Brazil. This came as a beneficial follow-up to our work in 2013 (see story here about the trip to Bihar shared with Karnataka Farmers).

Aditi and Laura (Spanish translators), Pardal, and Murgamma

In March, we hosted Adalberto “Pardal” Martins for ten days traveling throughout Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, and Karnataka. Pardal is a long-time member of MST, and has contributed in many areas, including the organization of production and cooperatives, agroecology, and political training. His visit occurred at the timely juncture of the political division of Andhra Pradesh into two states – Andhra and Telengana. Telengana was born of a historical struggle for land against feudal landlords, one of many commonalities with the narrative of the Landless Workers Movement of Brazil.

The conflict over land and the potential of capitalists' vested interests to dominate in the political vacuum in Telengana was a hot debate, and as Pardal met with pastoralists, adivasis (indigenous peoples), and small and marginal farmers who are members of Via Campesina ally Food Sovereignty Alliance, he asked them a provocative question - “Why don’t you just take them? The lands, why don’t you just occupy them and take them?”

“We will seize the lands, if we don’t get justice!” responds a young pastoral activist, whose grandparents fought in the 1942 armed rebellion against the Nizam. “Today the Telengana political leaders speak of massive capital investment as a positive future, but as shepherds our struggle is for our common lands and resources, not the same path of capitalist growth.”

“Though rivers flow through our lands, we get none of the water,” adds an Adivasi (indigenous) activist. “We are denied rights to our forests and resources. Whether there is one new state or one million new states, we just want autonomy over the natural resources and right to protect the forest. Our struggle is not just for our land but for the Mother Earth and the humanity of the world.”

"Occupy, Resist, Produce!"
Most visitors would ask the activists why they don’t they seek legal forms of redress, or take to the streets with banners, or invoke UN Conventions in order to put forward a strong voice in the new development of their state. But Pardal goes directly to direct action: occupy, resist, produce. This is a method that he has seen tried and tested in his home country of Brasil. He has been a member of the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST) or the Landless Workers’ Movement for over twenty years. MST is a movement which organizes peasant families to occupy unproductive and private lands which fail to meet their social purpose, as legally provided for in the constitution. Since MST was formed, 30 years ago, 420,000 families across 24 states of Brasil who have won land through the struggle and have organized into cooperatives.

But despite the differences in the scale of the organizations and their contexts, Pardal can’t find anything but commonalities: “It amazes me how common our struggle is, how common our enemies are, how common our vision is. These are all struggles for food sovereignty – be they of landless farmers in Brazil or by dalit (so-called “untouchable” castes), adivasi, farmer, and pastoral sanghams in India.”

This is Day One. By Day Ten, Pardal finds himself even more convinced. In the nine days between he met KRRS activists near Channapatna, Karnataka who have been fighting against the granite mafia for 30 years. On an early morning visit to see milk collection among members of a dairy cooperative in Madanapalli, he addressed their first question, “What’s the status of the Indian cows Brasil has done research about?” After a tour of the production houses of Dharani Cooperative, based at Timbaktu Collective and owned by 1800 farmers, certification processes were compared and debated. He also contributed to an exchange of the status of GMOs in Brazil and India at Economics of Happiness conference.

(if the above slideshow isn't working, you can find photos of Pardal's visit here.)
In November 2013, Kannaiyan Subramaniam, a farmer activist from Tamil Nadu, had the opportunity to continue the conversation with MST while visiting Sao Paolo. He went to the Acampamento Serrana (Serrana Camp), near a small town called Ribeirão Preto. The land was occupied when a sugar factory went bankrupt. The Camp Kannaiyan visited is 1817 hectares, occupied by 350 families. It has been occupied 8 times, and each time with forced evictions, following which they regroup and return with a new strategy for occupation. It is still in an insecure state.

Camp in Ribeirão Preto region

Kannaiyan observed the differences between Brazil and India: “Throughout Brazilian history there was always land concentration, monoculture, plantation, high technology and international-capital intensive agriculture. Unlike in India, in Brazil agriculture has been developed without people but with capital and technology (machines). Banks + media + international finance + technology + machines + government is the equation for agriculture in Brazil. A huge amount of people were evicted from the land and migrated to big cities. Few people stay in the countryside, yet those who live in the cities also don’t have quality of life.”

 India has a very strong history of peasant-based farming and high productivity in peasant-controlled farms, though with such a huge population land holdings can be very small and are rarely held by women and those outside of the traditional farmer castes. In some cases, in the MST occupied places, the people aren’t traditionally farmers – their family have been expulsed from the countryside generations ago. They have fertile lands but aren’t meeting their maximum production. An exchange programs for them to learn about farming in India could definitely help the MST settlements to improve their production, Kannaiyan suggests. But there’s a lot for Indians to learn there too:

Kannaiayan (Left) interviews MST Activists

“MST is a very strong movement with a strong sense of training. Training creates a very strong cadre and leader base for MST, and involves youths, which are largely missing in leadership structure in Indian movements. There are hundreds of thousands of ideologically and practically committed people. This is what really impressed me. They are using nonviolent struggle, in every level of debate. They are committed for a total systemic change.”

In his visitas Kannaiyan was also able to visit another settlement, Maria Lago, which had 600 families on 1,700 acres, Smack in the middle of a “sea of sugar cane monoculture”. This settlement has met legal peace despite police conflict in 2004 and 2005, and is now is producing agricultural products of agrarian reform. Kannaiyan also visited the Escola Nacional Florestan Fernandes, and you can find his analysis of his visit here.

Alex and Sabina in Kerala

A final linkage with MST occurred in October in Kerala, when Alex Yoshinori Kawakami spent a few days exchanging with youth activist Sabina Yasmin after an international program on agroecology hosted by a team of international NGOs and Indian NGOs. Sabina Yasmin, activist from the Bangladesh Kishani Federation (largely a landless peoples’ movement) came to India for a month of technical training, language immersion, and political exchanges. Sabina and Alex toured some of the agroecological farms of Kerala, observing first hand the negative impacts of switching from local seeds to hybrid seeds in adverse weather, the possibilities for small-scale mechanization, and the agricultural realities of Kerala. Though just for a few short days, exchanges such as these bring immense richness to the struggle for food sovereignty.

In 2015, LVC South Asia plans to build solid pathways between MST and Indian farmers movements – there is much to be shared between us. Methods for participatory training and agroecology are the need of the hour as we launch our first agroecology school at Amritha Bhoomi in Karnataka. Indian expertise in small-scale yet productive agriculture (seen through methods such as Zero Budget Natural Farming) along with Indian traditional medicine and Indian theories of nonviolence are of interest to MST. We intend to exchange delegation of farmers from South Asia to MST to implement this program, and look forward to a fertile future.



Sabina and Alex, accompanied by their Indian hosts out side of Kothamangalam, Kerala, walk home from a field visit.