By Pema Bhilala*
Hundreds of farmers from tens of villages of Narmada Valley, Badwani and Dhar Districts, occupied the office of District Collector, Badwani, on February 9, and compelled him to stand upright in front of the agitating Adivasis and other farmers, farm labourers and fishers. Collector Ajay Singh Gangwar obliged the people in high spirit, hearing their anger and agony. The issues raised included the farmers’ right to optimum prices for the farm produce, the loot through the corporatized crop insurance scheme, compensation for the crop affected by natural calamities, forcible acquisition and diversion of agricultural lands to the corporates.
They also protested against the move by the Collector to transfer the incomplete and inadequately established resettlement sites to the Village Panchayats without the latter having the legal mandate, capacity and funds to complete the task of rehabilitating thousands of families (90% of the 50000+ oustees) who are residing in their original villages, awaiting entitlements, till date.
The farmers in Nimad region of Madhya Pradesh, the prime agriculture and horticulture are facing multiple frontal attacks on their livelihoods due to natural and man-made calamity both. The untimely rains in 2014 and drought in 2015 as well as virus on the chilly and banana plantations have resulted in loss worth lakhs of rupees in each Tehsil. However, the compensation given by the Government without timely, complete, and perfect valuation of losses has been in peanuts and has left out thousands of farmers in the lurch. The farmers now demand full compensation.
The farmers demand that the highly publicized promise by the state Chief Minister to give Rs.8000 per hectare should be fulfilled since farmers deserve just and equal treatment compared with the corporates. The demand raised is for Rs. 2200 per quintal for the wheat which is the golden crop in Nimad, almost ready for harvesting;Rs 2000 per quintal for maize, jowar (millet), bajra and other hilly millets as also Rs 1000 per quintal for banana, papaya and other fruits. Devram Kanera exposed the scandalous scheme of crop insurance wherein there is involuntary imposition and deduction of premium but no rational compensation granted on the basis of the scheme. Dhevendra Tomar and Bhagirath Dhangar put forth the serious agro crises begun to be faced in the Nimad region and the fact that suicides have started happening in the Nimad region also.
Sanovar Bi, the woman farmer expressed the woes faced by the women farmers who cannot feed their family although they feed the nation. She spoke about the atrocities committed by the seed companies cheated and looted in natural calamities. She screamed against the insensitivity of the State towards women in farming. She too demanded special concessions to be given to the dam affected farmers in irrigation, power connections and loans. Shyama the fisherwoman questioned the Madhya Pradesh administration not registering the proposed fishing cooperatives and not giving them the right to “aquatic farming”. GokhruBhilala from forest village Bhadal in Barwani exposed the corruption in each department due to which the Adivasi farmers are being cheated and looted and Gram Sabha resolutions are neither recognized nor followed.
Representatives of Jagrut Dalit Adivasi Sangathan, Hari Singh and Nasri Bai also raised issues related to the corporate favouritism on one hand and injustice to the MNREGA labourers having converte dadivasi farmers into labourers and inspite of the law, neither provided them full employment nor full payment, is condemnable, they both said. Meera Bahan of NBA explained the demand for treating agricultural work as NREGA works so as to stop migration which is in lakhs per year, even from the Narmada valley where the rich natural resources are not properly harnessed. To generate employment subsidizing agriculture work through NREGA would help both farmers and labourers, she asserted.
Medha Patkar compered the three-hour-long dialogue with the Collector, who patiently stood before the crowd of hundreds of men and women along with the representatives of people and took the administration to task on the issue of prices for agricultural produce and compensation. She questioned the slogan-mongering by Mr. Shivraj Singh Government and demanded that when the Collector is ready to take up all issues at State level he should also convey to the CM that his Government should take decisions and declare the prices of wheat and other produce as also the details of crop insurance before 18th February, the Mahakumbh planned by BJP to conceal its anti-farmer policies and image.
If they do not respond the large mass gathering at Sansad Marg on February 24th by 400+ organizations. All activists and farmers and other displaced with many Sarpanchas and members, Jila Panchayats at various levels. unanimously warned the Collector against any illegal and irrational move to handover the resettlement sites. The Collector admitted that no such attempt would be made again till the NVDA’s work and responsibilities for constructing civic amenities at rehabilitation sites is fulfilled. People demanded that the press release issued by the district administration should be withdrawn and all papers with signatures of Sarpanchas and Secretaries taken on Collectorate on January 30th should be repealed.
The Collector also accepted the strongly put demand to hold public hearings on rehabilitation in five villages including Pichhodi, Bheelkheda, Kasravad, Dhanora and ChhotaBarda and assess compliance at the earliest. He also had to be told that there has to be special Gramsabha in village in every district. He also had to be told that under PESA Act that in this scheduled area that each Gramsabha is to be consulted wise issue of land acquisition and rehabilitation. Without the same rehabilitation cannot be taken as completed. Collector agreed but could not produce any timetable of the same.
People in Narmada valley are up on mobilization for the 24th February rally organized at Sansadmarg by 400+ more organizations under the banner of BhoomiAdhikarAndolan.
*National Alliance of People’s Movements