When both small and medium farmers throughout India are up in arms against the policies of the central and state governments, this meeting served to highlight the plight of the peasantry and focus on the need for strengthening the organization of peasants.
Peasants meeting Tamil Nadu call for strengthening organisation
Makkalatchi Iyakkam (Lok Raj Sangathan) together with Thamizaga Vivasayigal Sangam (Tamil Nadu Peasant Union) organized an important meeting on July 31st on peasant’s issues in Pasuvandanai, Thuthukudi District of Tamil Nadu. At this time, when both small and medium farmers throughout India are up in arms against the policies of the central and state governments, this meeting served to highlight the plight of the peasantry and focus on the need for strengthening the organization of peasants. The meeting was also held in memory of peasant leaders Gurusamy Thevar and SolaiSamy Reddiyar. Over 60 peasant and Makkalatchi Iyakkam activists and leaders attended the meeting.
InnasiMuthu, a peasant leader and fighter from Kovilpatti chaired the meeting. He narrated the struggles which Ma.Gurusamy Thevar has led amongst the peasants. He called the leadership provided by Gurusamy Thevar in the struggle against the government for winning the rights of the peasants. Farmers of Tamil Nadu have waged heroic struggles against the government in the past and won many victories, including free electricity. But in the recent past, we have not kept the organization in tact with the result we have lagged behind and the attacks on the peasants have increased many fold. We have lost precious leaders such as Gurusamy Thevar and Solaisamy Reddiar. At the moment, government is planning to re-impose the tariff on the electricity for agriculture. We need to unite, organize ourselves to defeat these designs of the rulers, he emphasized.
Saravanan, the Tuthukudi district secretary of the Tamizaga Vivasayigal Sangam and a leader of Makkalatchi Iyakkam spoke next. He recounted that Gurusamy Thevar fought the Loyal Mill management and got the land transferred back to the workers and poor people in Veerapandi Nagar and Valluvar Nagar of Kovlipatti. The residents of Kovilpatti can never forget the heroic contributions made by Gurusamy Thevar and Innasimuthu for their well being.
He recalled the heroism and the sacrifices of the vast sections of the peasants in their struggle to win free electricity. Over 42 peasants were killed all over TN during the agitation. Due to the militancy of the peasants and their unity, government had to bow down and grant free electricity for the peasants. Today, we are in similar circumstances. Attacks on the peasants and the broad masses of the people are increasing day by day. On the one hand agricultural input prices are increasing. Whereas, there is no fair price fixed for the agricultural produce. For example, the peasants of this region are unable to sell their produce such as chilies as the prices have crashed and the private agents are making huge profits at the cost of the peasants and the consumers. Government is not bothered about the plight of the peasants. Soon after the coming assembly elections, government is planning to impose tariffs for electricity. Many dams were constructed for the benefit of agriculture. But today we find that the water from these dams is being diverted to big industries and peasants are denied their share of water. For example, from Thamarabarani river dam, water is being piped to SPIC and Sterlite factories while peasants in the region who are denied any water are struggling to keep their produce from drying up. Government is also selling the precious river water to the rapacious multinational organizations such as Coca Cola, whereas vast tracts of lands are left dry and uncultivated. Government has not paid heed to the peasants demand to construct dams to conserve the rain water nor is it building canals to distribute the water to the lands for cultivation.
Now government has come up with Seeds Act, which is taking away the peasants rights over the seeds. It is defending the loot of the big corporations over peasants. The ruling elite is destroying the traditional agriculture and binding the peasants to the big greedy corporations. On the one hand the Prime Minister and the Finance Ministers are talking about giving huge credits to the peasants, whereas the ground reality is totally different. Poor peasants have to run from pillar to post and are unable to get any loans. Unable to get even the bare minimum credit at reasonable rate, they are forced to take loans from loan sharks at high rates.
Not only that government does not provide any guarantees to the livelihood of the peasants, it is also destroying even the meager means available to the peasants at an accelerated rate. This is leading to peasants and their youth running away from the villages to cities in search of livelihood.
To put an end to these attacks and defend their rights, he called upon the peasants to build their own organization and wage uncompromising struggles.
Wilson, a leader of the Kanyakumari District Plantation workers and an activist of Makkalatchi Iyakkam spoke on the issues caused by the liberalization polices of the government. He gave examples of how the people and the plantation workers in Kanyakumari district have lost their livelihood due to the liberalization of import of the agricultural products into the country. He narrated that this policy has benefited the rich capitalists, while the peasants and workers have lost their livelihood.
Baskar from Makkalatchi Iyakkam pointed out how Makkalatchi Iyakkam has been finding for demands to protect the livelihood of the peasants. It has been demanding that there should be security of land to the tillers. That there should be law that prevents anyone from buying or selling the agricultural land. Government should ensure the availability of all the agricultural inputs at affordable prices to all peasants. It should also ensure guaranteed prices for all the agricultural produces. Makkalatchi Iyakkam has been demanding that all the loans to the peasants should be written off and they are provided with fresh interest free loans to all the peasants. Peasants should also be provided with all the modern facilities on a cooperative basis to increase agricultural productivity and living standards. To ensure fair prices for the agricultural produce, internal wholesale trade and foreign trade should be taken over by the government which should prevent profiteers and greedy multinationals from dominating agricultural trade and profiting at the cost of the peasants and people of this country.
In order to achieve these demands, it is very important that peasants organize themselves and defend their rights uncompromisingly. They should also build up the alliance with the workers and others who are also fighting for similar demands against the government. A worker – peasant alliance is the need of the hour and together we should demand that government implements these policies. We should also work towards winning political power to implement these policies, he said.
Nagarjan, a Social activist who spoke at the meeting appreciated the policies of Makkalatchi Iyakkam and Tamizaga Vivasayigal Sangam. He wanted similar meeting to be held in other towns. A peasant Adhimuthu observed that society is getting highly computerized today. Government is facilitating the computerization and related industries. Will computers bring food to your table to eat, if we peasants to not produce, he queried. It is high time that government realizes that society’s roots should be protected and the liberalization policies should not be allowed to uproot them. Patabiraman of Makkalatchi Iyakkam, Kovilpatti, said that martyrs do not die, they get reborn in society. We must carry forward the noble objectives of our heroic martyrs. Our rulers are leading this country on the path of destruction. Soon water may be dearer than food. People should have the first right over water and not the private profiteers. We are not begging, we are demanding our rights to livelihood. We should not accept any injustice, but fight against it by organizing ourselves. We should uphold our unity and not allow our enemies to split us under any pretext, he said.
Other peasant activists Gandhi, Khan and Karrupasamy also spoke in the meeting welcoming the sprit of the meeting.
A set of resolutions in defense of the livelihood of the peasants were discussed and passed unanimously. A committee was elected to lead the peasants in that region. Karrupasamy was elected as the secretary of this committee. Throughout the meeting, all the participants were charged up to build their organization and fight for their rights. The meeting has provided them a clear direction and determination to win their rights.