Skip to main content
xYOU DESERVE INDEPENDENT, CRITICAL MEDIA. We want readers like you. Support independent critical media.

1,000 Villages and Counting: A Crucial Victory Boosts Campaign for April 5 Rally in MP

Ravi Kaushal |
CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan announces stalling Atal Progress Way; Project was reportedly affecting 1 lakh houses and thousands of acres of land

File Photo.

It’s a day for celebration. A struggle has reached its conclusion. The officials of All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) in Madhya Pradesh are in a jovial mood after Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced about stalling of the Atal Progress Way, an ambitious multiple-lane highway in Chambal Valley. The project was reportedly affecting the 1 lakh houses and thousands of acres of land that were planned to be acquired. The state government was also mulling the construction of multi-faceted logistics hubs in Bhind, industrial townships in Morena and an agriculture trading hub in Shyopat.

In his announcement, Chouhan said that the survey for the highway is being stalled. The crucial victory comes under the leadership of Ashok Tiwari, AIKS State President who was campaigning for a longer dharna at Parliament Street on April 6. Tiwari maintains that the farmers were already campaigning for a rally on April 5 in the national capital being jointly organised by the All India Kisan Sabha, Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) and All India Agricultural Workers Union (AIAWU). Tiwari along with his team has been actively campaigning in Morena and adjoining districts to demand a Minimum Support Price (MSP) as per the Swaminathan Commission, a one-time loan waiver for indebted farmers, a rollback of four labour codes, a monthly salary of Rs 26,000 for industrial workers and expansion of the scope of work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) to 200 days and a daily wage of Rs 600 per day.

Talking to NewsClick over the phone, Tiwari said that the victory has boosted the confidence of activists and common people for the April 5 rally.  “This victory has given us a moral boost for the rally and we are expecting increased participation now. Stopping this project is a great victory for us in the sense that it would have deprived small and marginal farmers of their land. It was indeed a ploy to hand over land to the corporate. In the recent budget, the state government announced that they would be acquiring 70-meter land to build the highway and 500-metre land on both sides of the highway to create the corridor. What’s more atrocious is that they also said they would be creating a buffer zone in five kilometres of the highway where farmers could not carry out any activity, commercial or otherwise. We never saw such a retrograde project,” he said.

Tiwari added that the three organisations are making a push to deliver the message of struggle and victory among the peasantry and taking it to Delhi too.

Talking to NewsClick over the phone, Badal Saroj, Joint Secretary of AIKS said that the campaign to reach common people has already crossed 1000 villages and is expected to cover more villages ahead of the rally. He added that the activists, buoyed by the recent victory on the Chambal highway, are filled with enthusiasm and confidence. “We designed our campaign by keeping in mind the topography of the state. In plains, we chose Jeeps to cover the maximum number of villages in a day. The state has three regions where we have a major tribal population- Vindhya, Mahakaushal and Malwa. In hilly terrain, we chose Jathas by bike and on foot. The idea is to go to people and make them aware of issues in small meetings. Meanwhile, our activists would paste posters in villages and surrounding areas.”

Saroj added that the state’s farmers are facing multiple challenges in these distressing times. Farmers had already small landholdings and the cut in the allocation and scope of schemes has made things worse. As per the agriculture census in 2001, the average holding per farmer remains at 2.1 hectares. 51% of farmers belong to the marginal farmer's group owning 0.4 hectares. “There was a greater discontent among people when the Centre announced a cut in the public distribution system. People were getting something to eat during distressing periods such as droughts and natural disasters. Corruption has added more woes to it by denying the needy the ration they deserve. There’s hardly any complaint redressal mechanism,” he said.

He added that schemes like MGNREGA in the state have taken double blows in the form of a cut in central budgetary allocation as well as changes in the structure of the implementation. “Earlier Panchayat could determine the work to do under the scheme. It has been altered and now the assigning authority is district administration. Panchayat officials of different villages have to fight in district headquarters for work. Panchayats could do it more swiftly and autonomously. So, the governments are rationing work through this process,” Saroj said.

He continued, “I was in Rewa during my campaign and the Sarpanchs of 10-12 panchayats told me that they undertook the work on mere verbal orders and are now waiting for months to get the bills cleared. One sarpanch told me that they constructed the walls of the schools along with other works and the contractors are asking for money. He has no clue about the date of payment. Essentially, the processes have been devised not to allocate work under schemes like MGNREGA which defeats the purpose of the scheme.”

Saroj added that farmers’ challenges are multi-pronged as they batting bad weather and government apathy.  “We are receiving the news that farmers in the Hoshangabad district have been returned from Mandis after much of the product was found to be moist. The district administration is saying that it will release new dates for purchasing wheat. Does it not cost money to hire tractors to bring produce to Mandi and to go back? The moisture is primarily due to unseasonal rains. I do not think it will get drier later,” he said.

“Now, let me cite you the example of Mustard. Official MSP for Mustard in the state remain Rs 4,540 per quintal but it is selling Rs 4,000 per quintal. Last season, it was sold Rs 6,500 per quintal. So, there is complete uncertainty. The schemes like Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana (PMFBY) and Pradhan Mantri Kisan Samman Nidhi Yojana (PMKSNY) have proved to be a complete disappointment. It was very clear from the beginning that the Fasal Bima Yojana was meant to profit the corporates. Yet, the centre pushed it. Kisan Samman Nidhi was initially welcomed by farmers but the disbursal of money has stopped,” he added.

Pramod Pradhan, General Secretary of CITU Madhya Pradesh told NewsClick that the campaign among the industrial workers has been very enthusiastic. However, there is a worry over government crackdown in form of stopping rails to stop workers to reach Delhi. He said, “we have decided to leave for Delhi on April 3 and if government stops trains, we will stage Dharna in front of rail engines.”

He added that the state government diluted every single norm of social security and other protections to workers in the name of ease of doing business. “You would be surprised to find that we have not a single permanent worker in many industrial areas. Similarly, 12-hour work is a norm now. When our activists tried to oppose it, they were met with large-scale displacements, jail and false cases. In the cement industry, 70% of workers are contract workers be it in limestone quarries or mills. The problem here for complaint redressal is that central government is appropriate government and it gets very difficult to chase these officials,” he said.

Pradhan maintained that the state government has already privatised the transportation business. “Among scheme workers, we have a strong presence and they have been on strike since March 15. So, we are assured about one of the largest participation from the state in the rally.”

Get the latest reports & analysis with people's perspective on Protests, movements & deep analytical videos, discussions of the current affairs in your Telegram app. Subscribe to NewsClick's Telegram channel & get Real-Time updates on stories, as they get published on our website.

Subscribe Newsclick On Telegram