Peasants of India have launched a powerful struggle to force the central and state governments to take immediate measures to guarantee them secure livelihood. More and more peasant organisations in different states are joining the struggle for rights.
The liberalization programme of the Indian state has ruined the peasantry over the last two decades and more. Agriculture has been increasingly integrated with the global market. State support for farmers has been cut back. Big capitalist companies have expanded their presence in the market for agricultural inputs and outputs.
The monopoly capitalists – Indian and foreign are making maximum profits from the inputs used by peasants such as seeds, fertilisers and tractors. They have used their control over trade in agro commodities to keep the price paid to peasants for their produce at lowest possible level and make maximum profits. In sum the capitalist class headed by the biggest monopolies has been enriching itself by squeezing the peasantry from all sides.
Peasants are demanding that the Central government organise public procurement of all agricultural produce at a price that will ensure security of livelihood. The demand is that the MSP of all crops be announced before the sowing season, and that this MSP should be 50% over the average cost of production of that crop.
The Central government recently made an announcement claiming to fulfil the demand for MSP persistently raised by the peasants. Peasant organisations have exposed the lying propaganda of the Central government. The MSP announced by the Central government is much lower than that demanded by the peasants. It is much lower than even the MSP announced by state governments for the same crops. Further, there is no mechanism to ensure that peasants are actually able to get even this price in the mandis. Of all the crops in India, only wheat and rice are publicly procured, that too only in a few states. Only 20% of wheat and rice is publicly procured. Peasants invariably get a much lower price in the mandis for their produce than the officially announced MSP.
Every year, more and more peasants get ruined, as what they earn from their crops is not enough to repay the loans to the banks and moneylenders. This happens, both, when their crop fails because of weather conditions or pests, and when there is a bumper crop and market prices crash.
The present government announced with big fanfare the Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yogana (PMFBY) — a crop insurance scheme which will allegedly protect peasants in case of crop failure. In fact, the PMFBY is a scheme to enrich the private insurance monopolies. In the name of providing crop insurance, they are making huge profits by robbing both the peasantry and the state exchequer.
Lakhs of peasants have become deeply indebted to banks and private moneylenders. Lakhs have committed suicide, in the face of this terrible situation.
Peasants have been demanding loan waivers now for several years. They are merely asking the government to return a portion of what they have been robbed off by the big capitalists. The Central government has denied any responsibility to provide the much needed relief; it has declared that it is upto state governments to waive loans. It is clear that the Central government represents only the interests of the biggest capitalists, and does their bidding. It has waived thousands of crores of rupees of bad debt of many big capitalists. The same government is unwilling to waive the small loans of a peasant family.
The penetration of capitalism in agriculture and its further integration with the global markets has led to the devastation of agriculture and marginalised the peasantry while enriching the monopoly corporations that sell inputs to the peasantry, trade in agro produce and sell crop insurance.