Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Desperate to Reclaim their Receded Support Among Rural Poor, Stalinists Resort to Demagogy and Meek Protest on Farm Suicides

Chhaya/ 13.8.2015

A two day sit-in was organized on 10-11 August, by All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), an affiliate of Stalinist CPI (M), at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi to protest against farmer suicides in the country.

Demands of the protestors included Rs.Ten lakhs as relief to each of the affected families, waiver of loans in case of suicide, free credit to low and medium farmers, share croppers and agricultural workers, Minimum Support Price (MSP) plus 50% of costs for all crops as recommended by Swaminathan Commission, setting up of procurement centers in all states, social security for agricultural workers, monthly pension of Rs. 3,000 for toiling farmers, agricultural workers and rural artisans, among others.

Families of about hundred suicide victims from over fourteen states in the country, had joined in the sit-in. However, sowing illusions among the poor peasants, the AIKS leaders continued to make repeated appeals to the Modi Government, against the plight of peasant families.

Increasing poverty, high living costs, fragmentation of land holdings, rural unemployment, etc. have resulted in a cobweb of farm debt as part of an overall agrarian crisis. This crisis has led to more and more appalling conditions for rural poor and has also led to innumerable farm suicides.

At the national level, in the last two decades alone, over 3,00,000 farmers have committed suicide. This means one farmer committing suicide every half an hour.

The agricultural crisis, itself rooted in the systemic crisis of capitalism, is aggravated by the downturn of world capitalist economy. The recent years have seen suicides in areas where they were earlier unheard of. In Haryana, popularly portrayed as a Green Revolution area, on an average, two farmers are committing suicide each day.

Over the past one year alone, farmer suicides have increased by 26%. This is the direct result of neo-liberal policies that had continued over decades and received a new shot at the beginning of the 1990s.

Adding fuel to the fire, stand the policies of pro-investor, big-bourgeois governments, that have remained in power for decades. These neo-liberal policies involve withdrawal of the state from investment in agriculture, cutting of subsidies and dismantling of all support systems. Clamping down on any aid to farmers, the central government under Narendra Modi has recently issued a warning that if any state gives bonus over and above Minimum Support Price (MSP), the Food Corporation of India will not procure from that state.

The anti-poor and pro-rich policies implemented by successive bourgeois governments leading to the agrarian crisis were openly supported by Stalinist leaders and the parties under them. The Stalinist left front held fast to the Congress and to the UPA led by it when these policies were vehemently being pushed onward since 1991. Stalinist left front was instrumental in throwing its critical support behind the Congress led UPA, enabling it to form the government at the centre. Stalinist left front executed the very same neo-liberal policies in states of West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, i.e., wherever it itself remained in power.

Speaking at the sit-in for CPM, the largest Stalinist party in India, Sitaram Yechuri, its newly elected General Secretary, promised to push the struggle forward and also to take it to the Parliament. Yechury is chief proponent of the idea of forging an alliance between the left front and the bourgeois Congress. He remained at loss to explain as to how he can ‘take the struggle forward’ while clinging onto bourgeois Congress. Needless to say that the two key bourgeois parties, the BJP as well as the Congress, and the governments under them have been equally unresponsive to the needs of the poor.

Stalinists have been avid supporters of the pro-investor regime established under leadership of bourgeois parties like the Congress, parties which are in their opinion 'democratic and secular'.

While preventing the working class from presenting its independent and revolutionary solution to the crisis, the Stalinists solemnly affirm their faith in inevitability of victory of one of the two rival bourgeois camps -the Congress or the BJP- thereby rejecting any idea of presentation of a viable alternative to both by the working class.

At the height of political hypocrisy, the very same left-front that till yesterday fired upon poor peasants in Singur and Nandigram, banned strikes in West Bengal and supported and implemented the pro-rich policies, is talking of opposition to the very same anti-poor policies. Through demagogy, the Stalinists are trying to woo the rural poor to reclaim their vote bank among them, specially at the threshold of elections for Bihar Assembly.    

Dinkar Kapoor, from All India People’s Front (AIPF), a platform of various Stalinist and petty-bourgeois organisations, recently floated by CPI ML Liberation, described agrarian distress as a betrayal of the Independence struggle for farmers and agricultural laborers. “While HINDALCO got electricity at Rs.2 per unit, a farmer only gets it at Rs.7 to Rs.8 per unit. And this has been true under Nehru, under the UPA, and continues to be true under the BJP. While Adani gets loan at 0.01% interest rate, a farmer can only take a loan for buying a tractor at 13%. Though a farmer contributes 26 paisa in a rupee to the GDP, budget allocation for agriculture is only 17,000 crore out of 17,00,000 crore budget – a minor 1%”, claimed Dinkar.

It must be noted that the CPI ML Liberation, the mentor of AIPF, has joined the left-front led by the CPI (M) last year, subordinating itself, in most opportunist way, to the very same policies that its leaders had continued to criticise since 1967 split in CPM.  

Unable to provide any respite to farmers, and while pushing through the policies that compound the crisis, the bourgeois governments are engaged in data maneuvers to whitewash the records. Amidst innumerable farm suicides, the new methodology adopted by the National Crime Records Bureau has brought the peasant suicides in Rajasthan down to zero. The state that had a notorious record of more than 410 farmers committing suicide every year from 2008 to 2013, with a whopping six percent rise in 2013 over 2012 figures, is shown to have no suicides in 2014.

“The new methodology enables state governments to conceal the number of farmer suicides across new categories,” says P. Sainath, the leading agricultural economist who has studied the phenomenon. This bungling finds its parallel in the data manipulation that showed general plunge in poverty in the country according to the report submitted by Tendulkar Committee two years back.

To demonstrate this, M.K. Nidheesh from 'Mint' has drawn an interesting comparison between Karnataka government’s own statistics from two different sources. "When the government noted only 48 deaths in 2014, National Crime Records Bureau on 17 July reported 321 farmers’ suicides and 447 farm laborers’ suicides for the same year". This disparity, where one figure is almost eighteen times the other, can only be understood in terms of a deliberate and calculated official maneuver.

What official databases reveal is only tip of the iceberg in case of suicides by farmers. Even in clear cases of farm suicides, authorities ordinarily refuse to record and report them as such. In Krishna district, known as the rice bowl of Telangana, revenue officials refused to consider six deaths as farmer suicides, as, for reasons best known to them, they were due to ‘family problems’ and not farm related issues.

Needless to add, farmer suicides comprise far smaller part of overall peasant deaths due to agricultural distress and poverty that are always left out of official statistics.

Death of a farmer, leaving behind as the sole inheritance a debt repayment obligation, a charge upon the land, results in emotional as well economic breakdown for a peasant family, The only way to discharge the debt would be to take more debt, of which there would be little hope of repayment amidst further plummeting incomes. That would entail further debt, sometimes at exorbitant rates and on harsher terms from moneylenders when other avenues close off. And so continues the debt trap unabated.

Compensation policy of the government in case of suicides strongly favors the landed class. While maximum suicides are committed by landless peasantry, by those who take the land on lease, and by small farmers, it is the owners of farms who are solely eligible for compensation. In order to benefit from such schemes, not only do you need to have land but that too in your own name.

Showing total apathy and insensitivity towards the crisis, bourgeois leaders are virtually mocking the victims. When Central cabinet Minister for Agriculture Radha Mohan Singh termed farm suicides a result of love-affairs and sexual impotency, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was quick to pass the buck on to the UPA, recounting how these causes were first propounded by their pundits. 

Father of Gajendra Singh, the Rajasthan farmer who committed suicide in Delhi during an AAP rally, said that BJP leader Amit Shah had come to him and had made promises but he never received any compensation. Professing no faith in the government he maintained, “Main jaanta hoon sarkaar dhakosala hai. Par mujhe janta aur uske sangharsh mein vishwas hai. Atmhatya aasan hai, sangharsh mushkil.”

There’s a fundamental difference between the nature and causes of agrarian crisis we’re experiencing today and the ones that came before the 1990s. Though, debt was a problem factor even a decade back, suicides were majorly concentrated in low-rainfall, poorly irrigated and drought prone areas. Today, it’s not always a problem of lack of infrastructure, irrigation or the like. In fact, most suicides in Karnataka were reported from Mandya district – a well irrigated region. Chiefly responsible for this spiraling crisis are the pro-investor policies of the government under which even the agricultural loans offered are tailored more to the interests of finance companies than to the needs of toiling farmers.

Core reasons for suicides and deaths -downfall in crop prices and delay in payments- are not often attributable, like before, to natural calamities -crop failure, low rainfall, drought, etc.- but emanate from operation of the capitalist markets.

Bizzare claims that growth of capitalism would resolve agrarian crisis or would address the bourgeois democratic tasks in general, is refuted by the course of development in the country. Leon Trotsky, the co-leader of October revolution, alongside Lenin, while underscoring peculiar path of uneven and combined development in backward countries, made it clear that growth of capitalism in these countries would in no way resolve the democratic tasks, above all the agrarian crisis, rather would aggravate and reveal all its contradictions. The growth of capitalism in India before and after 1947 has deepened the crisis more and more. The more capital investments are poured into farmlands, the more agriculture is dragged to the world market, the more capitalist globalization perfects its stranglehold, more clearly is revealed the nature and extent of agrarian crisis.

For its liberation, the village looks towards the city and the fate of peasantry depends upon the working class and its revolution, in which rural poors can play an important but secondary role. The mobilisation of working class in the cities capable of dragging behind it the billions of rural poor, forging an alliance between the two against the ruling capitalist-landlord clique, is the key to revolution in India. This mobilization is possible only around a program based upon perspective of centrality of the working class and the essential strategic lessons of October revolution, alongwith their negative confirmations in devastating failures, subsequently.

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