Prabodh Pande MP, national president of All-India Kisan Sabha(AIKS), has said that the land acquisition in Nandigram and Singur in West Bengal by the then LDF government was a mistake as the farmers were not willing to surrender the land and a lesson ought to be learnt from it.
He was speaking at the delegates’ session of the 18th state conference of the AIKS, the farmers wing of the CPI, at the Municipal Town Hall here on Sunday. Pande, who hails from West Bengal, said that the AIKS had opposed the forcible eviction of the farmers from Singur and Nandigram but the government failed to listen to them. He said that in the states where the Left parties had influence like West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, the land reforms were implemented. In all other states, there were no land reforms and consequently, the number of landless people is large. He flayed the new economic reforms implemented in the country since 1991, which had only worsened the conditions of the farmers. The budgetary allocations and investment in agriculture is being reduced day by day, he alleged.
A survey has revealed that 41 per cent of the population in the country are landless. In spite of this, land is being allocated to the capitalists and not the landless. The AIKS has always demanded the implementation of land reforms, without the corporatisation of land and the scrapping of the archaic and draconian Land Acquisition Act of 1894. A new farmer-centric and farmer friendly Act should be put in place. A Standing Committee of Parliament had suggested changes in the Act, but the changes were frozen by the government. Pande flayed the Centre for the handing over of the manufacture of seeds and fertilisers to the private sector, which has resulted in an unbridled price rise. Except for urea, all the fertilisers have been decontrolled.
The AIKS has demanded that the farmers should be provided loans at zero per cent interest though the Swaminathan Commission had recommended that the loans be disbursed at 4 per cent interest. The association demanded that all farmers above the age of 60 should be given a minimum pension of Rs 3,000. Similar to industries where all costs are factored into the cost of production, in agriculture also the cost of building a cow shed, the toil of the family members etc, should be added to the total cost, he said. He recommended that the support price should be fixed, to assure the farmer of a 50 per cent profit. Further, he said that the markets for the produce should be provided in the village itself, with proper storage facilities.
Pande also alleged that it was the pressure from the US which was goading India to allow foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.
This will deny the farmers the due price as the markets will now be monopolised.
He urged the Centre to see to it that the youth is retained in the agriculture sector. A recent survey has shown that 42 per cent of the farmers are leaving the field in search of alternative work.
State president of AIKS V Chamunni hoisted the flag. Former CPI district secretary Vijayan Kunissery welcomed the gathering.
The three-day state conference will conclude with a rally and a public meeting on Monday.