FREEDOM FROM DEBT & REALISATION OF REMUNERATIVE PRICES AS RIGHTS OF ALL FARMERS
The lack of dignity and profitability in farming is very clear all around us. You are aware that in India, farmers have been committing suicides at the rate of one farmer killing himself/herself every 30 minutes on an average, with more than 3 lakh farmers having committed suicide since economic liberalisation was initiated. The distress is acute, and indebtedness (or bankruptcy) is one of the main reasons, even as per NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) reports. This is the unfortunate situation of our Anna Daatas, the ones who have kept us alive, including by tremendous personal sacrifices and cross-subsidising the rest of the economy by foregoing incomes of around 2 lakh crore rupees per year. The crisis has clearly been precipitated by numerous anti-farmer policies adopted by governments, central and state.
A recent government commissioned study of 528 farm suicides in 13 states shows that crop loan was a major cause of indebtedness and suicides, and farmers were under pressure from non-institutional as well as institutional money lenders. Official data shows that between 2003 and 2013, the average debt of an Indian farm household increased from Rs. 12585/- to Rs. 47,000/-, an increase of 373%! And more farm households are indebted now than before. Informal debt at usurious rates is a major problem for small and marginal and landless farmers who are not in the institutional credit fold.
On another side, when it comes to prices which are directly correlated to farm incomes, it is seen that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) that government announces doesn’t even cover the officially-estimated cost of cultivation! The actual cost of cultivation is actually higher than the official estimates. And even if the actual cost is covered, if MSP is just equal to the cost, how is the farmer family supposed to meet its living expenses? We also know that a vast majority of farmers do not even get this unjust MSP when they go to sell their produce.
ALL INDIA KISAN SANGHARSH COORDINATION COMMITTEE FORMED, TO FIGHT FOR FARMERS
After the spontaneous struggles led by young farmers in different states and the unconscionable firing and killing of 6 young farmers in Mandsaur in Madhya Pradesh in June 2017, more than 170 farmers’ organisations across the country came together to form the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC). This is the first ongoing effort in decades to bring together various farmers’ organisations into one platform for a commonly agreed programme. Farmers here include not just landowners but tenant farmers, sharecroppers, livestock rearers, women farmers, adivasi and dalit farmers and others.
2 MAIN DEMANDS
The AIKSCC, which has seen the coming together of more than 170 large and local farmer unions of the country, has two main demands to governments:
- Freedom from (all kinds) of debt for all farmers;
- Right to realise just and remunerative prices at Cost C2+50%, as per the Swaminathan Commission recommendation, for all crops that are sold.
Freedom from debt is a demand that includes informal loans of farmers (including tenant and landless farmers) too, and a demand that farmers need a policy environment which does not push them further into a debt trap. This will require a law and an institutional structure for debt relief and freedom. The demand for remunerative prices includes the need to improve cost estimations plus provide 50% profit margin over the cost of cultivation when announcing MSP, which is a recommendation of the Swaminathan Commission (cost C2+50%). Further, this remunerative MSP should be guaranteed to each farmer for all crops by adopting numerous mechanisms, including legal prohibition on purchase below MSP.
KISAN MUKTI YATRA
To reach out to citizens about its two main demands, AIKSCC is doing a Kisan Mukti Yatra to cover various states of India. The South India Kisan Mukti Yatra toured 5 South Indian states between September 16th 2017 to September 23rd 2017. Bihar-Uttar Pradesh- Uttarakhand yatra started by October 2nd and completed by 11th October 2017. Refer to blog and media section for related news and photos.
KISAN MUKTI SANSAD
After finishing the Yatra in various parts of the country, the Kisan Mukti Yatra culminate dinto a Kisan Mukti Sansad at Ramleela Maidan in New Delhi on November 20th 2017. The massive Kisan Mukti Sansad succeeded in registering the plight of the farmers and their demands before the country. The first ever Women’s Parliament was a critical acknowledgement of the role of women as farmers. By formulating and presenting two Bills centred around its two demands (copies available on AIKSCC website www.aikscc.com), the AIKSCC has demonstrated that it is not merely about protests and opposition, it is a common resource for policy alternatives on Indian agriculture.
The Government has shown no inclination to listen to the farmers’ woes, despite thousands of farmers including hundred of farm suicide affected widows marching to Delhi. Neither the PM nor any of his ministerial colleagues has cared to come to this historic Sansad and listen to the farmers. This Kisan Sansad therefore resolves to intensify the struggle, widen its ambit and deepen its reach to the grassroots. Please refer to this blog post for details.