Representational Image. Image Courtesy: AP
Opposing the pro-corporate and anti-peasants and anti-workers policies undertaken by the central government during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centre of All India Trade Unions (CITU), All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) and All India Agricultural Workers’ Union (AIAWU) on Friday, June 12, have jointly given a nationwide campaign call for larger movement on July 23 and August 9 or Quit India day.
Addressing the press conference through an online platform, Hannan Mollah, General Secretary of AIKS said that on June 10, lakhs of farmers across the country burned the copies of the recently promulgated three agriculture related ordinances by the Narendra Modi led government. The ordinances -- the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020, the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 and amendments to the Essential Commodities Act, “will result in the end of farmers based agriculture and bring in corporate controlled agriculture in the country,” said Mollah.
Explaining that the farmers’ faced numerous problems during lockdown related to harvesting, transportation of crop produce, crop loss and minimum support price, Mollah asserted that the government’s new agri-related policies will break the backbone of the peasantry.
Also read: Explained: How Changes in Agri-Produce Trade Laws Will Turn Hunger into Profit-Making Business
CITU, AIKS and AIAWU unions stated that their members will jointly campaign for village level and sub-divisional level protest meetings across all states on July 23. The unions have resolved to work together to develop their movement into a massive movement on August 9 or Quit India day.
“Workers, farmers and agriculture workers are the real producers of wealth in the country. As these sections of people are left with no scope of dialogue with the government, the unions have to oppose, resist, mobilise and combat the pro-corporate policies,” said Tapen Sen, General Secretary of CITU. He added that the government’s Atma Nirbhar Bharat package is meant for the corporate that will only further push down the economy.
Sen said that the joint movement demands a ‘jobs for all’ scheme for both urban and rural people.
AIAWU General Secretary B Venkat said that the current crisis among agriculture workers is related to work, food, migration and caste discrimination. “With the urban to rural migrations of the workers during lockdown, approximately five crore more workers are now seeking work in the agriculture sector increasing the total number of agricultural workers to 19 crore. About 90% of them belong to SCs, STs and OBCs. There have been instances of caste discrimination and social boycott of the migrant workers in rural India which indicates the exploitation of the vulnerable communities by the landlords,” said Venkat. In order to provide work to the increased number of agricultural workers, he demanded that the government must sanction an additional Rs 1 lakh crore for the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) scheme.
The unions are also demanding that the government must provide free COVID-19 tests and treatment for all sections of the people.
Talking about the agrarian distress, Mollah said that over 250 farmers have committed suicides during the lockdown period due to over-burdening debts and crop losses.