Thursday, March 15, 2018

India Enraged: Farmers warn of larger agitation if the government continues with its apathy




India : In two days, two major cities of India – Mumbai and Delhi – witnessed thousands of farmers and farm workers demonstrating peacefully but with a steely resolve to make themselves heard.
While on Monday, over 50,000 farmers were camping in Mumbai, the country’s financial capital demanding for complete and unconditional loan waivers and right of ownership over their territories, Tuesday saw thousands of small and medium farmers of North India laying siege to the New Delhi’s Parliament street peacefully staging a day-long demonstration asking for fair price, debt waivers and more.
Bharatiya Kisan Union, that organised the farmers on Tuesday also submitted a memorandum to the Vice President of India demanding his intervention to force the Central Government to listen in to their situation of despair and possible solutions.
Here is the full text of the note released by Bharatiya Kisan Union, that is also a member of La Via Campesina in South Asia.
———-
BKU Demands “50% higher MSP than the Comprehensive Cost of Production (C2 + 50%); it MUST be over and above A2 + FL”: Ch. Rakesh Tikait
BKU Demands “Complete Debt Waiver across India & Interest Free Institutional Loan for Farmers: Chaudhary Yudhvir Singh
BKU warns “Indian Government Not to Compromise Food Stockholding & Price Support for farmers at the forthcoming WTO Mini Ministerial in Delhi”: Ajmer Singh Lakhowal
Today, 13th March 2018, more than 25 thousand farmers associated with Bhartiya Kissan Union from whole of North India gathered at the Parliament Street in New Delhi and held a Kisan Mahapanchayat to protest against NDA government’s anti-farmer policies.
It is quite unfortunate that in last four years NDA regime has been witnessing wide spread agrarian distress and unprecedented farmers unrest across India. The farm unrest is aggravated by the failed promise of NDA government to implement Swaminathan Report and ensure C2+50% rates for farmers produce as well as pro-corporate schemes on crop loan and contract farming which is meant benefit big corporate houses at the cost of small and marginal farmers and farm labourers.
On the one hand Modi government shed crocodile tears in the name of scarcity of funds for not offering any loan waiver for farmers but on the other hand the same government provide huge tax benefits and custom and excise concessions to businesses and crony capitalists.
The Anti Nationals like Nirav Modi, Lalit and Vijay Mallaya who have looted crores of tax payers money and are accused of defrauding Banks have been allowed to run away from the country while innocent farmers have Rs.5000 to Rs.10,000 of farm loan are being harassed and are forced to commit suicides.
There are several such instances where banks have made public announcement over loudspeakers or conducting house search or seizing household goods or tractors of loan defaulters, thus maligning farmer’s self respect which force him/her to commit suicide. If loan defaulters of small sum of few thousands are not spared, why the Modi government is failing to take any suitable actions against corporate loan defaulters. Instead the corporate loan defaulters who owe state owned banks astronomical amounts often accompany the Prime Minister on his foreign trips. BKU demands strict action against the corporate loan defaulters. BKU also demands complete loan waivers for the farmers with less than 10 acres of land as well as interest free institutional loans.

Rakesh Tikait of BKU, addressing the crowd.
In view of the increasing numbers (from 628 in 2014 to 4837 in 2016 as per NCRB) of farmers’ protests across India, the Modi government offered another bait (formally presented in the finance minister’s Budget speech for FY17) to farmers of doubling their farm income by 2022, five years from now. However the hollowness of government promise lies in the fact that there is no Data on the current real income of farmers and relies on five years old data of National Sample Survey conducted between July 2012 to June 2013 which indicates an average monthly income of a farmer’s HOUSEHOLD as Rs. 6426 [of which only about 60% was from farm business (i.e. Rs. 3856)]. This comes to Rs. 1285 per member (considering that there are five members in a farmers household) and in 2022 this would probably get doubled to Rs.2570, which would not be a substantial raise to farm income given the increasing inflation. Interestingly, the Economic Survey of 2018 candidly admits the failure of the Government in raising the incomes of the farmers (which remains stagnant in the past four years), yet the government believes that they would double the farmer’s income by 2022. The BKU believes that’s the NDA government of increasing farm income will remain an empty promise as has happened with their election promise to provide C2+50. That is the reason, the BKU demands for a guaranteed fixed minimum income for farmers. And to realise this, BKU demands for a Farmers’ Income Commission, which would launch a survey to assess the current income of farmers, and based on that it will ensure a fixed monthly income for small and marginal farmers.

Four years after coming into power, the Modi government made an half hearted attempt in the Budget 2017-18 to offer remunerative price for farmers produce but they deliberately chose a wrong formula. Instead of offering 50 percent above the comprehensive cost of production (C2) which includes imputed rent as well as interest on owned land and capital besides A2+FL, the Modi government offered only A2+FL which includes actual paid out cost plus imputed value of family labour. In last ten years or so, the Commission on Agricultural Cost of Prices (CACP) have declared the MSP at 50% higher than the A2+FL. There is nothing new in the Budget announcement of 2018-19. The Budget announcement is contrary to the promise made by the BJP in its 2014 Election Manifesto. A2+FL formula is totally unacceptable to the farmers. The BKU demands that the government gives a 50% margin over the comprehensive cost of production which must be over and above the A2+FL. The BKU also demands that the NDA government must take serious steps to have efficient procurement mechanisms in place so that farmers get assured MSP for their produce. At present, the MSP announced for most crops is only notional as there is no procurement mechanism in most parts of the country. The BJP governments in the Centre and in all the 21 States must ensure procurement at the MSP rates.


















The Government of India is hosting the WTO Mini Ministerial in Delhi on 19th and 20th March where 90 countries are expected to participate. We believe that Indian government is hosting this Mini Ministerial to get permanent solution for the pending agricultural issues in the WTO, which includes permanent solution for the public stockholding for food security, Special Safeguard Mechanisms as well as reduction of agricultural subsidies by the developed countries. The BKU demand that India must stand firm in its resolve to get a permanent solution for the food security issues and No Deal is made to compromise Price Support for Indian farmers. Due to the faulty policies of WTO and other trade agreements, India is becoming a dumping ground for all agricultural produce and import of agriculture goods in India have skyrocketed during Modi regime. BKU therefore demands that agriculture Must be OUT of WTO and India government do not include agriculture in any bilateral deals including Free Trade Agreements.
The BJP had in its manifesto promised that it will not introduce or commercialize GM food crops and will impose ban on GM seeds and plants but their government’s Economic Survey of 2016-17 mentions that GM crops should be promoted for food security. Even the developed countries which have adopted GM crops on a large scale are facing lot of challenges with regard to food security. The BKU demands that the cultivation of all GM crops including GM Mustard must be banned and budgetary support should be provided for the promotion of Agroecology and toxic free farming.
There have been no price increases for sugarcane in all sugarcane-growing states in the past two years. Sugarcane farmers have also not been paid their arrears. The BKU demands that arrears be paid to sugarcane farmers immediately without any further delay.
A lot of propaganda was made around the new Crop Insurance Scheme but statistics indicate that the insurance companies got more premium and farmers received very less compensation. So evidently it is only benefitting the companies. From the information received so far, it is clear that the payment of claim is delayed and insufficient. High actuarial premium rates were applied, only to bring the indebted farmers under coverage. The BKU demands that the Crop Insurance Scheme considers farmers as a unit. All important crops should be brought under its purview. In distressed areas where there is no threshold yield, potential yield should be used for those crops for which the average yield data is not available. Damage to wild animals, fire, damaged crops due to chilly to be applied at individual level.
Yours,
Chowdhary Rakesh Tikait
National Spokesperson, BKU

To download high resolution images from the demonstration, click here
All images by La Via Campesina

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

We salute the struggle of women, in the countryside and in towns and cities : La Via Campesina

Statement of Solidarity on the occasion of March 8th, the International Women’s day

(Harare, Zimbabwe, March 8th, 2018): Today, on International Women’s Day, we, the women of La Via Campesina – peasants, indigenous women, Afro-descendants, mestizas, fishers, pastoralists, women from urban and rural areas, belonging to different organisations with different forms of mobilisation and activism – want to salute the women workers of the world. We send special greetings to women who are struggling and who are fighting, not only to earn their living, but also for political participation, equal rights,equity and for the recognition of our work, our accomplishments and our knowledge in the construction of a fairer world for men and women.
We pay tribute to those women who are engaged in a constant struggle to end violence against women and against all human beings, women who are breaking the silence. We pay tribute to women who confront the structural oppression of capitalism, refusing to accept the ingrained patriarchal patterns in societies where, every day, women are the victims of violence, discrimination, exploitation, oppression and murder. We are called upon to reaffirm the necessity of ending violence against women, our ongoing Campaign to End Violence towards Women that was renewed at the 7th La Via Campesina International Conference in Bilbao in 2017.


We express our appreciation for women who are not afraid to struggle – in very different ways and in a wide variety of cultural and geographical settings – for land, food sovereignty, water, seeds, and agroecology, as well as for education and health services. We admire women who are struggling within factories or in their day to day lives, and all of the women who are fighting for political, economic, and social emancipation. In a spirit of solidarity, we acknowledge and value ourselves, as women who are making dreams come true and constructing new societies, together with the working classes of the world.
We are also aware that we are suffering from a worldwide onslaught from imperialist capitalism, with its intrinsic ties to the conservative and fascist patriarchy, which is constantly seeking to increase the exploitation of our land, territories, and natural resources, a well as to increase the exploitation of women’s work, their lives, and their bodies. Every day, our rights are violated by the actions of transnational corporations that are the root causes of migration, and that generate familial and social conflicts and provide fuel for wars. We are violated and demeaned by prostitution, the trafficking of women, and sexual exploitation. Furthermore, we are criminalised because of our struggles, because we choose life rather than death. We face the constant challenge of confronting domestic violence and assault – be it physical, psychological, moral, or sexual – that all too often end in murder, disappearance, or suicide.
It is in this context that we reaffirm our feminism and our commitment to the struggles for gender parity and for full political participation in all decision-making bodies. We are also reasserting the need for day to day collective practical actions, going beyond speeches and motions, to end violence against women everywhere.
Yes, we have a lot to commemorate, starting with the first struggles by women factory workers for higher wages, better working and living conditions. Yes, all over the world, womens’ contributions have given us much to remember. Yes, we have a lot to commemorate in women’s struggles for universal suffrage and for full recognition as equal human beings.
A tribute to the women who gave their lives, in the struggle for the rights of women in different areas, who suffered torture, sexual and moral violations, who were disappeared, imprisoned, beheaded, massacred for defending life, dignity, Mother Earth and the rights of women. We will follow their examples, their traces, legacies that they have left for us in different spaces of work as well as day-to-day lives.
For these reasons, we know that, in order to guarantee respect for our rights, much more is asked of us at this time. We must have the courage to confront that even greater monster which sustains the patriarchy and is the source of all of the injustice suffered by workers all over the world. It is in this spirit that we salute the struggles, the activities, marches, mobilisations, and meetings of the women throughout the world who are confronting the forces of patriarchy and capitalism that threaten the lives of women, nature itself, and the life of the planet.
This is why we say that without feminism we cannot build a new society.
We salute the struggle of women, in the countryside and in towns and cities.
A warm embrace from the women of La Via Campesina to all women who are involved in struggle!

You can follow details and visuals of our mobilisation on our social media pages and the website.
  • Website: www.viacampesina.org
  • Facebook: ViaCampesinaOfficial
  • Twitter (English): @via_campesina
  • Hashtags: #PopularPeasantFeminism #8March

We also have produced posters, social media banners that you could use during the week.
Download the posters here
Download social media banners here
Download banner thumbnails here

Friday, March 2, 2018

Farmers can topple govt in 2019 polls if MSP promise not kept: Bharatiya Kisan Union

Picture from Archives

In a recent press meet conducted by Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU), it threatened that farmers can topple the BJP in the 2019 general elections if the promise of the minimum support price (MSP) at 50 per cent of the cost is not announced.

The Bhartiya Kisan Union on Wednesday announced to organise a “Mahapanchayat” of farmers from across the country on March 13 outside Parliament to press for acceptance of demands, including better remunerative prices for agriculture produce.

BKU’s leaders, including national general secretary Yudhvir Singh and Punjab general secretary Harinder Singh Lakhowal, said farmers were pushed to the wall and had to resort to path of agitation on account of government’s continued apathy to their plight. Yudhvir Singh said the possibility of farmers pitching camp outside Parliament for an indefinite period cannot be ruled out. “A call in the matter will be taken by farmers at the March 13 assembly,” he added.

The BKU is unhappy with Budget 2018-19 which, it alleged, has ignored demands raised periodically. A demonstration of strength outside Parliament when it will be in session will be apt to force government to act, it said.  Singh cautioned the government that the BKU will not dither from giving a call to farmers to defeat the BJP in coming Assembly elections in the predominantly agrarian states of Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh, and in the next general elections.


The main demands include fixing of MSP using C2+50 formula, MSP of all crops with guaranteed purchase, total waiver of farmers’ loans, long-term interest free loans for agriculture, imposition of ban on GM crops, guaranteed minimum income for farmers and upping the credit limit on Kisan Cards from present Rs 3 lakh to Rs 5 lakh.




Here is the full text of the press release -


                                                                                                                                                               28-02-2018
Press Note
Agricultural Cabinet should be formed in India and government should give farmers fair and profitable price for their crops: Chowdhary Rakesh Tikait

Government of India should call for a joint session of the Parliament to discuss and find solutions for farmers’ problems: Lakhowal

The government must ensure guaranteed purchase and declaration of remunerative prices for all crops before sowing: Chaudhary Yudhvir Singh

A Press Conference was organized on 28-02-2018 at Indian Women’s Press Corps, Windsor Palace, New Delhi by BharatiyaKisan Union for matters related to farmers’ problems and to draw the outline of the campaign. Bharatiya Kisan Union National General Secretary Chaudhary Yudhvir Singh, Bharatiya Kisan Union National Spokesperson  Ch. Rakesh Tikait, BKU Punjab President Shri Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, BKU Haryana President Ratan Singh Maan, BKU Delhi President Virendra Dagar addressed the Press Conference.  All peasant leaders demanded loan waiver and to put an end to farmers suicides. 
The 70th report of the National Sample Survey says that the average monthly income of a farmers family is INR 3844 which also includes income from animal husbandry. It is impossible to provide for a family with an average monthly income of Rs. 4000.  This has resulted in increased debt on farmers further resulting in farmers’ suicides. The number of people leaving farming is growing. In the absence of proper planning by the Indian Government, their promise of doubling farmers’ income has proven to be hollow. Demonstrations are being held all over the country on these issues but the government is using repressive measures rather than holding dialogues with the protesters. Even the governments formed in the name of farmers’ welfare do nothing for them. With this press conference, Bhartiya Kisan Union wants the government to hear the following demands:
1.      Farmers should get fair and profitable price using C2+50 for their produce: BJP in its party Election Manifesto has announced that it will ensure fair and remunerative prices which are 50% above the cost of cultivation based on the Agriculture Commission report but, while presenting the budget, the Finance Minister hasn’t made a clear announcement regarding the reference cost . His statement is contrary to the promise they made. He is now using A2+50 formula as reference cost which is totally unacceptable to the farmers. We demand that the government gives a 50% margin over the comprehensive cost C2 that is C2+50 as remunerative price for crops. Commission for Agricultural Costs and prices should be ended and the cost of production recommended by agricultural universities should be accepted.
2.      Declare Minimum Support Price of all crops and ensure guaranteed purchase: Minimum support price of all crops should be declared and procurement of all crops should be guaranteed in the country. On the basis of MSP guaranteed procurement scheme should be launched. Even today the produce is getting sold below the support price. Extensive measures should be taken to stop this.
3.       Farmers’ debts should be waived off completely: As indicated above, debt burden is the main reason for farmers’ suicides. In the year 2015, more than 3000 cases of farmers’ suicides were reported in Maharashtra alone. In Bundelkhand, Uttar Pradesh, every day the news of farmers’ suicide is in news but the government has taken no steps to provide any relief to the farmers through loan waiver. During the 2007-08 recession, the corporate world got a waiver of more than 3 lakh crore rupees and got relief. It is also understood from reports that even now, banks have written off thousands of crores of rupees of bad debts. However, despite so many farmers committing suicides, such a relief through loan waiver is not being given to farmers. Keeping in mind the agrarian distress in the country, there should be a total debt waiver on all kinds of loans of farmers
4.      Provision of long term interest free loans for agriculture: Keeping in mind the present agrarian crisis, farmers should be given long term loans. Farmers should be given credit cards and loans for crops and machinery should be on zero interest for five years.
5.      Kisan Credit Card: The credit limit on Kisan Credit Cards should be increased from three lacs to five lacs.
6.      Proper Policy for welfare of families of the farmers who committed suicide: A nationwide policy should be formed for financial assistance of the families of the farmers who commit suicide.
7.      Fix and guarantee minimum incomes for farmers: Farmers demand that like other sections of society, there should be a minimum income fixed and guaranteed for farmers too. For this purpose, there should be a Farmers’ Income Commission established. Through this, the government should ensure that a farmer’s family’s income is not less than the income of fourth grade employees.
8.      Storage Facilities: farmers do not have options when it comes to storage facilities for their crops. Effective provisions should be made for proper cold storage and warehousing facilities.
9.      Impose a ban on GM crops: BJP had in its manifesto promised that it will not introduce or commercialize GM food crops and will impose ban on GM seeds and plants but the Economic Survey of 2016-17 mentions that GM crops should be promoted for food security. Even the developed countries which have adopted GM crops on a large scale are facing lot of challenges with regard to food security. Bhartiya Kisan Union demands that the cultivation of all GM crops including GM Mustard should be banned and funding should be provided for the promotion of traditional farming.
10.  Sugarcane farmers should be paid their arrears: There have been no price increases for sugarcane in all sugarcane-growing states of the country in the past two years. Sugarcane farmers have also not been paid their arrears. BKU demands that arrears be paid to sugarcane farmers immediately without any further delay.
11.  Crop Insurance Scheme: A lot of propaganda was made around the new Crop Insurance Scheme but statistics indicate that the insurance companies got more premium and farmers received very less compensation. So evidently it is only benefitting the companies. From the information received so far, it is clear that the payment of claim is delayed and insufficient. High actuarial premium rates were applied, only to bring the indebted farmers under coverage.  BK demands that the Crop Insurance Scheme considers farmers as a unit. All important crops should be brought under its purview. In distressed areas where there is no threshold yield, potential yield should be used for those crops for which the average yield data is not available. Damage to wild animals, fire, damaged crops due to chilly to be applied at individual level
12.  No compromise should be made on the interests of farmers at the World Trade Organization: Agriculture should be kept out of the ambit of World Trade Organization and all agricultural imports should be banned. Agricultural imports are impacting farmers’ livelihoods and farm suicides are on the rise. The Economic Survey 2016-17 also makes it clear that India is becoming a hub for imports and there is a constant decline in exports. We demand that the Agreement on Agriculture in the WTO should be ended and all agricultural imports should be banned.
13.  No liberalization in agricultural trade under Free Trade Agreements: If there is further liberalization of trade under the ongoing dialogues on Free Trade Agreements with Canada, Australia and New Zealand, Indian agriculture will be affected very adversely. Because of this, milk, wheat, pulses and oilseeds producers will be adversely impacted given that these three countries are major exporters of these products. These countries need big markets like India for such produce. BKU demands that all free trade agreements in the agriculture sector be stopped immediately. If markets are opened at discounted prices for items like wheat from Australia, dairy products from New Zealand and edible oils from Canada  then the livelihood of Indian farmers will be affected badly since these countries are prime exporters of these products. These countries need big markets like India. BKU demands that all dialogues on agriculture under these FTAs should be ended immediately.
14.  Special Session in Parliament on agricultural issues: Agrarian crisis is intensifying every day because if which small and medium farmers are forced to leave farming and becoming laborers. A special session of Parliament should be called to address this crisis.
On 13th March 2018, Bhartiya Kisan Union will organize a Farmers Mahapanchayat on Parliament Street to address all these issues. Farmers from all states will participate in it.
Yours,
Chowdhary Rakesh Tikait
National Spokesperson, BKU

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Thousands of farmers from across Karnataka bid adieu to K S Puttannaiah, the iconic peasant leader

In a show of gratitude and solidarity to the innumerable struggles led by Shri K S Puttannaiah, the iconic peasant leader of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Green Brigade, thousands of farmers from the state brought sacks of soil to dedicate it to him as he is being laid to rest.
Shri KS Puttannaiah’s funeral is being held on Thursday 22nd February 2018 in his native village Kyathanahalli, Pandavapura Taluk, Mandya district at 10.30 am.
In a statement issued by the peasant movement and the Green Brigade, they have recalled their beloved leader as a son of a soil, a rationalist, a humanitarian and a peerless activist. In a notable act of rationality, the funeral and the subsequent ritual 12 days later, will be deliberately devoid of any religious rituals and is instead being marked by planting a sapling seed.
The statement also noted that the funeral procession started at JSS Dental College, Mysuru at 6 am and traveled through Srirangapatna, Pandavapura Town (via Elekere) and arrived at Kyathanahalli village.


Farmers from different parts of the State, mainly the old Mysore region, were expected to reach Kyathanahalli to attend the funeral. Over 5,000 farmers from the northern parts of Karnataka were expected to reach by Wednesday midnight. Accommodation are being provided at local school buildings, temples, and premises of ‘aalemane’ (traditional jaggery making units) and rice mills, according to news reports quoting KRRS sources.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Sowing seeds of freedom – the story of Dundamma

One student of seed saving and home gardening at Amrita Bhoomi is Dundamma, a Dalit woman from Kariana Katte in Chamarajanagar District of Karnataka. Dundamma has grown a rich garden with more than thirty vegetables like bottle gourd, pumpkin, snake gourd, radish, many greens like is spinach, amaranth, dill, coriander, as well as roots like tapioca and potatoes. She also has many medicinal herbs and flowers. “This is my pharmacy, this is how I take care of my family’s health,” beamed Dundamma.

“We always had a small plot of land behind our house and I converted it into a kitchen garden. I grow mostly all that we need for our daily consumption, people in the cities are also doing this these days- they have roof gardens.” She exclaims.

Dundamma became weary of the toxic food being sold in the market and the constant need of money to buy food. Through her garden, she has built autonomy for herself and her family.  She says that women must be at the forefront of the food system, “In villages it is us, women who are the ones responsible for cooking and for making a kitchen garden, we have the power to bring slow change.”

Dundamma uses the waste from her kitchen, and manure from her chickens and goat as fertilizer for her garden. She also saves wastewater from her kitchen- that which is used to wash food -- to water her garden.  

Dundamma got many of her seeds from Amrita Bhoomi during a training workshop. She was so enthusiastic after her experience that she will soon join as a trainer for other women. “I have been giving out seeds to my relatives and neighbours and telling them about the benefits of growing these different plants,” she said.

“I am really happy to see my efforts are working. I am saving money, and I feel proud to feed my family food that is grown and cooked by me. So many beautiful birds have started coming to my garden everyday. It is truly joyful!” says Dundamma.