The UPA Government, which recently completed the first year of its second avatar, has claimed to be a government serving the aam aadmi. It pretends to be greatly concerned about the poor peasants in the villages. However life reveals the opposite.
The Finance Minister of the UPA-1, Mr. Chidambaram, claimed in his budget speech of 2005-06, that his budget was oriented towards uplifting and building rural India. It was during this period 2005-09 that agriculture passed through a severe crisis and thousands of peasants committed suicide. It is also during this period, especially in the recent two years, that prices of food items consumed by the aam aadmi has risen dramatically. The rate of food inflation has crossed 20%. So on the one hand, peasants are seeing their incomes drop steadily while on the other, workers and toilers in the cities and countryside are unable to purchase even essential food items. Who is gaining in all this?
In its 2009 manifesto for the General Elections, the Congress Party promised to make farming a profitable venture! This was a clear admission that farmers of our country are being steadily ruined because of the "pro farmer policies" of successive governments over the years. Facts reveal that the UPA government has no intention to make farming profitable for the majority of farmers. When it talks about making farming profitable, it is actually talking about measures to maximise profits for the big capitalist corporations, Indian and international, involved in seed and fertilizer production, in food processing and retail trade. This is the central thrust of the bourgeoisie's policy towards agriculture.
Private sector investment in agriculture has increased from Rs.70,000 crore in 2004-05 to nearly Rs.130,000 crore in 2008-09, according to the Annual Report 2009-10 of the Ministry of Agriculture. In a very planned manner, the UPA government has been pushing for the intrusion of private players - big traders and corporations - into post harvest operations, allowing for direct procurement at prices to be determined by the "market", meaning the traders!
Insecurity of livelihood plagues the peasantry. Output prices have been very volatile, while input prices have been steadily increasing. The government has either withdrawn from guaranteeing prices or not raised the procurement price commensurate with the cost of cultivation. The All-India Kisan Sabha has charged that the announcement on June 8 of the MSP for the 2010-11 kharif crop does not take into account the increase in input costs especially the increase in prices of urea and fertilisers, as well as increase in petrol and diesel prices. Farmers have been forced to pay extremely high prices for fertilisers after the decontrol of prices.
The peasantry is very angry that the UPA can continue to claim that it is very concerned for the peasantry even while it is squeezing the tillers dry and driving them to suicide. For example, the announcement of MSP in June 2010 for the kharif pulses was done with much fanfare as if it was unveiling a big bonanza for the peasantry. The truth is that the MSP of Rs.3,000/quintal for arhar, the most popular pulse in many parts of our country, is far below the market price ranging from Rs.80/kg to Rs.100/kg (Rs.8000/quintal to Rs.10,000/quintal). Peasants are being given merely Rs.3000 per quintal while the middlemen rake in super profits. Likewise, the MSP of other pulses like moong and urad is also far below the expectations of the farmers.
This gap between what the farmer is offered when he sells in the market, and what the worker and peasant has to pay, when they buy the same in the market, is where superprofts are being made. The government is not working to reduce this gap to the benefit of the workers and peasants. Instead, it is telling the big trading monopolies—"this is where you can make farming a "profitable business" for yourselves, and we will assist you." This is why, not only workers and peasants, but also small retail traders are under attack.
Government's failure on all fronts of agriculture
The soaring food prices have exposed the UPA government's abject failure to ensure that the food produced by the sweat of the tillers gets distributed to the working population in the cities. Current reports show that grains continue to rot because the government has not provided enough godowns. The UPA government has even failed to meet the Eleventh Plan target of storage capacity necessary to increase the procurement of produce.
The government has been talking of allowing private players to invest in "modernising" agriculture and for providing the infrastructure for grading, standardization, packaging and cold storage claiming that this is the only way to reduce the post harvest losses. This is a clear admission that of its own failure to provide such a basic service to the peasantry.
India's peasants aspire to modern agricultural production and maximum efficiency in storage, transport and marketing of their produce that will ensure them remunerative prices and a secure livelihood. However, the government is pursuing a course to ensure that these facilities are established only where the biggest corporations and monopoly trading houses can make maximum profits.
Likewise, the government has been aggressively pursuing liberalisation of imports contrary to the interests of the livelihood of millions of small and marginal farmers of the country. Recently, one of the most callous attacks on the livelihood of the peasantry has been the signing of the Free Trade Agreement (FTA). India signed this agreement with the ASEAN countries in August 2009 (effective January 2010) and this has already badly affected the peasantry, especially in South India, by cheap imports of palm oil, coconut pepper, tea and pulses. In going ahead with the agreement despite the protests of a large section of the peasantry, the UPA government has shown that its commitment is to serve the corporate houses, who have plenty to gain from market access in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and other ASEAN countries for exports of machinery and machine parts, steel and steel products, automobiles and auto components, chemicals and synthetic textiles.
The UPA government's policy has been a continuation of the policy adopted by successive past governments, in the interests of the big bourgeoisie exactly contrary to the interests of the majority of the peasantry. This is clearly revealed in the stark plunder of the land and natural resources and labour of the peasantry. Such resources are viewed only with the perspective of extracting the maximum profits to be appropriated by a minority rich at the expense of the millions of peasants and the depletion of natural resources without any concern for sustainability.
The bourgeoisie tells the peasantry that its future is secure under capitalism. However, now the peasants have declared it for what it is - a big lie. They are fighting for no less than a stable and remunerative market for their produce, by putting an end to profiteering by monopoly corporations and speculators.
For the peasants of India, the future lies in uniting with the working class to create a new power, so as to carry out the program of reorienting the economy to fulfill the needs of the toiling majority, rather than satisfying the greed of the capitalist minority. We, the working class and peasantry, have to organise to take charge of society. We can together plan and organise for agriculture to be a productive activity, that will be remunerative for the producers and offer the best quality food at affordable prices to the working population in the cities and towns.
Only a workers’ and peasants’ regime can ensure productive and sustainable agriculture, good quality produce and effective distribution with minimum spoilage of produce, that will secure the livelihood of the tillers and meet the nutritional requirements of the working population in the cities and countryside.