Precarious lives of India’s farmers merits undivided attention of Parliament, enduring solutions

India Agriculture

The All India Kisan Struggle Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), which has organized Delhi Chalo programme for November 28-30, has floated a petition, addressed to Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, demanding a special, 21-day joint session of Parliament to discuss the agrarian crisis and related issues. Seeking signatures from concerned citizens, following is the text of the petition:

As concerned citizens, we write to you regarding the mounting agrarian crisis in the country, that has now reached civilizational proportions. We draw your attention to this crisis, which is no longer just a measure of loss of land, incomes, jobs and productivity, but of our own humanity. Successive governments have witnessed the destruction of the countryside and the unchecked destitution of farmers and yet little has been done to alleviate their misery.

They have witnessed the deepening misery of the dispossessed, including the death by suicide of well over 300,000 farmers these past 20 years. As the All India Kisan Struggle Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), representing almost 200 farming organisations and millions of our country’s farmers, workers and agricultural labourers is fighting to save their livelihoods and has organised a Kisan Mukti March to Delhi for 3 days from 28th to 30th of November, we urge you to pay heed to their demand for a special, 21 day joint session of Parliament, dedicated entirely to discussing the agrarian crisis and related issues.

We request your intervention as the President of the Republic of India and the Constitutional head to ensure that a crisis of this scale that renders 70 per cent of Indian citizens vulnerable is addressed by a joint session of the Parliament of this country. In the recent past there was a midnight joint session of the Parliament to discuss the Goods and Services Tax.

Surely the precariousness of the lives of millions of citizens merits the undivided attention of Parliament and thereby its commitment to find enduring solutions. We bring to your attention that this demand for a special Parliamentary session emerges after numerous protests, petitions, pleadings by distressed farmers, labourers, forest communities, fisher folk and the foot soldiers of our country’s literacy and health care programmes – Anganwadi, Accredited Social Health Activists and Auxiliary Nurse Midwife workers, have failed to garner the attention of successive governments to the agrarian crisis.

We hope you recognise that rural Indians’ quest for social and economic justice strives for liberation from debt, remunerative prices, fair wages, employment and education, as well as health and nutritional security.

dilliOn behalf of the AIKSCC, two bills – The Farmers’ Freedom from Indebtedness Bill, 2018, and The Farmers’ Right to Guaranteed Remunerative Minimum Support Prices for Agricultural Commodities Bill, 2018 – have already been placed before Parliament and are awaiting discussion. Their adoption should also form an important part of the special Parliament session.

In keeping with the principles of our Constitution that exhort us to strive towards equality, we expect your unconditional support for this demand for a special agrarian session. Agreeing to this demand for a special Parliamentary session to discuss the grave agrarian distress destroying India’s countryside will be the highest expression of our democracy, as it reinforces the trust of the people in their elected representatives to uphold the values of our Constitution.

We need not remind you that rural India is one of the most complex parts of planet earth and this special session will lend insight into addressing the myriad problems plaguing our countryside. Problems of farmer suicides, deaths of children due to starvation, growing unemployment, increased informalisation, indebtedness, a devastation of the country’s cattle economy and overall precariousness, has led to a collapse of agriculture. As a result of this, our once proud food growers are forced to work in exploitative jobs as domestic servants and daily wage labourers.

The 2011 Census alone demonstrates that there are nearly 15 million fewer farmers than there were in 1991. This pattern of distress migration indicates that the agrarian crisis has burst from the seams of rural India, undermining both the country’s food security and our collective food sovereignty.

Furthermore, we seek your intervention to ensure that this special session on the agrarian crisis be rooted in the testimonies of its victims. They need to be heard from and inside the Parliament. The session would enable them to address their fellow citizens and representatives from the floor of the Parliament, and explain the impact of devastating farming policies, the lack of rural credit and fair prices, and the unbearable violence of privatising water, healthcare and education.

Even comprehensive measures like the seminal recommendations made by the National Commission of Farmers in 2006, and the now lapsed Women’s Farmers Entitlement Bill were steps in the right direction, but were never adequately implemented.

We seek your mediation to ensure that the joint session of Parliament addresses and highlights the role of women farmers whose labour upholds the rural economy, yet has remained unacknowledged for years. Moreover, the session should hear, record and address the increased vulnerabilities of landless peasants, tenant farmers, agricultural labourers, Dalit and Adivasi farmers, and include the suffering of minority groups practising diverse, allied occupations.

In March 2018, as forty thousand farmers and labourers from Maharashtra after their Kisan Long March from Nashik, encircled the state legislative assembly in Mumbai, pushing forth their demands, they demonstrated their keen astuteness as practitioners of democracy.

Following the AIKSCC’s Long March to Delhi in November, we request that as the highest appointed guardian of our Constitution, you ensure that their engagement with the nation’s democratic mechanism is welcomed and heeded. After all, it is they who not only sustain the people of this country, but are also the ones who truly keep democracy alive.


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