The Parliament Street of New Delhi became crimson on 5 September 2018, as a rally of more than 200,000 workers and peasants marched towards the parliament raising their just demands, opposing the anti-people, pro-corporate and predatory policies of the Hindutva fascist Narendra Modi regime. Though the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh rally was organised by the parliamentary opportunist CPI(M)-affiliated All India Kisan Sabha, the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU), AIDWA, etc., it raised the demands with which the poor of the country could relate themselves and the demands actually reflected the sentiment of the broad masses.
Taking a cue from its success in organising a massive peasants’ long march to Mumbai in March, the CPI(M)-led mass organisations chalked out the plan to agitate at the heart of the Indian capital with a sea wave of workers and peasants raising the red banner. The Modi regime, which wants to burn, kill and destroy the last traces of crimson in the country through its rabid Hindutva fascist agenda, got infuriated to see so many people reaching the capital city, majorly from BJP-ruled states, and participating in the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh rally surmounting the barriers of threat and violence that its supporters laid on their way.
Though the CPI(M) and its mass organisations wanted to use the rally to garner votes for the waning party during the forthcoming elections and become somehow relevant in the country’s parliamentary arena, where it has microscopic presence now due to its utmost capitulation to social-fascism and revisionism, the participants of the rally, the workers and peasants who sell their hard labour to meet their ends and survive mostly on less than $2.00 a day, came with a desire to win victory for themselves by forcing the government to nod in favour of their demands.
What were the demands of the participants of the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh rally?
The 15-point demands raised by the participants of the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh rally are:
1) Curb price rise; universalise Public Distribution System; ban forward trading in essential commodities: The BJP has played a notorious role since the period of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s rule to dismantle the Public Distribution System (PDS) and end the provision of subsidised food for the common people. By applying criteria and by imposing several conditions, Ration Card types, and by generating a man-made shortage of food products, the BJP, since 1999, attacked the right of the people to subsidised food.
Apart from killing the PDS, the Modi regime has also played a crucial role in strengthening forward trading in essential commodities, through which its upper-caste North and West Indian comprador voters earn a fortune every day. The forward trading on essential items was permitted by the Vajpayee regime and was allowed to flourish even under the Congress-led UPA I and II regimes; now under Narendra Modi, the forward trading of essential commodities reached a new height.
2) Employment: Before coming to power, Narendra Modi promised to create 25 million jobs every year for a period of five years, i.e. 125 million jobs in total. The promise remained a hollow one, unfulfilled like many others. While Narendra Modi and his cabinet members may have forgotten about the promise and only have rhetoric to cover up for the non-delivery, the unemployment problem has reached an alarming stage. More than 17 million job seekers are entering the job market in search of employment each year, whereas only 5.5 million new jobs are created every year.
The centralisation of capital at few corners of India, in its metro cities and industrial hubs, has caused a large-scale migration of labour from one part of the country to another in search of livelihood. The demand for employment for every hand is a rightful demand, and it calls upon the Prime Minister to fulfil his poll promise of creating 25 million jobs a year, sans the employment opportunity Narendra Modi thinks people got by frying pakoras at the street corners.
3) A minimum wage of Rs 18,000 per month for the workers: Not only did the BJP oppose the AAP-led Delhi Government’s hike in the minimum wages of the working class to Rs 13,000, it helped its comprador capitalist donors and foreign corporate masters to file a court case against the order of the government. Unlike the Delhi Government, Narendra Modi’s regime didn’t do anything to help the working class fight its war of survival against the rising cost of living. Though the minimum wage should not be less than Rs 20,000 in view of the spiralling inflation and skyrocketing fuel price rise, the Modi regime must be budged to make it at least Rs 18,000.
4) Stop anti-worker labour law amendments: Since Narendra Modi’s cabinet was formed, it has been working in favour of big corporations, foreign and domestic, and helping them extract more profit by sucking the last drop of worker’s blood. The amendments to the colonial-era labour law and factory laws will make the existing system more regressive than before for the working class; it will snatch away their right to unite and organise, and turn them into bonded-slaves of Indian comprador-crony capitalists or foreign corporations, officially.
5) Remunerative price for the peasants as per Swaminathan Committee recommendations; strengthening of public procurement: By tweaking and twisting the Swaminathan Committee recommendations on agriculture, which Narendra Modi promised to implement during his 2014 election campaign, the BJP government has created a scheme to fool the farmers and enrich the rural usurers and traders. By avoiding the comprehensive input cost of C2, the government has decided to hike MSP on A2+FL, which will not increase the real income of the farmers as promised by the government. Also, the gimmick of doubling the farmers’ income in five years is as shabby as any other promise of the government due to its fault lines.
Public procurement of paddy and other crops, including the cash crops, have fallen significantly in the last four years and the farmers aren’t getting the right price for their crops from the usurers and traders, who are duping them. While tomato is sold by distressed farmers of Uttar Pradesh at Rs 4.00 per kg to the usurers, it costs around Rs 48 per kg in South Delhi. Similarly, while garlic is sold by the farmers at a price of Re 1.00 per kg, while the cost of cultivation is Rs 20.00 per kg, the same crop is sold in the retail market of Delhi at Rs 250 per kg. This sheer loot and plunder of the farmers’ labour and money are happening right under the nose of the Modi regime, whose helmsman promised “better days” for the farmers before the election.
6) Debt waiver for poor peasants and agricultural workers: Despite repeated demand of a comprehensive debt waiver plan to help the peasants of the country, the Modi regime remained indifferent to the severe crisis. Farmers and peasants are thrown into destitution due to high losses caused due to unavailability of the right price for their crops and due to their immensely mounting debts. Except for few gimmicks, there has been no real and comprehensive debt waiver for the farmers, however, in 2015-16, public sector banks wrote-off Rs 1300 billion worth bad debts from their books, most of them taken by big corporations. It was also found that more than Rs 59,000 crore of agriculture loan was given to 615 borrowers by the public sector banks and it’s doubted that these beneficiaries are corporate houses engaged in agri-based business, which makes them eligible for agriculture loan.
7) Comprehensive legislation for agricultural workers: Despite tilling the soil of the feudal landlords and rich farmers, the agricultural workers in most states of India have no rights and no legislation governs their occupation, resulting into inhuman exploitation of their labour, and they have to face other abuses, including caste and gender abuse, on a daily basis. A comprehensive legislation for the agricultural workers or the landless peasants is a very urgent requirement for the country, where more than 50 per cent of the rural population has no land of its own.
8) Implementation of MGNREGA in all rural areas; amendment to the Act to cover urban areas: The Congress-led erstwhile UPA regime enacted the MGNREGA scheme to camouflage its anti-poor war and pro-corporate standpoint. However, even that minuscule welfare programme, which guaranteed 100 days of employment to the rural poor in a year, faced the axe of the Modi regime year-upon-year. By not increasing allocation for MGNREGA as per the requirement and by delaying fund release, which causes a severe problem for the rural poor, the Modi regime has ensured a speedy death to the scheme.
Due to the deepening unemployment crisis, it’s not enough that the MGNREGA allocation is increased, it’s also important that the scheme is expanded to urban areas as well to provide the poor unemployed people of the cities a chance to survive by earning a meagre income.
9) Food security, health, education, housing for all: Food security for all, universal preventive health care and education are the mandatory requirements of a welfare state, which the corporate-lackey Modi regime has grossly ignored in the last four years. There is a dire need to provide food security to the majority of poor of India, who are unable to eat a square meal a day.
Out-of-the-pocket healthcare expenses throw more than 600,000 people to the gorge of poverty every year in India. The lack of preventive and universal healthcare mechanism to serve the poor, and the over-reliance upon health insurance and private healthcare services, including the scientifically unproven AYUSH, to handle the growing demand of healthcare, resulted into deterioration of public health and the poor people have to pay the price of this with their lives at many places.
Dancing to the tune played by the WTO, the Modi regime is undoing the right-to-education and the scope of higher education for the poor and the marginalised people. By privatising higher education and providing government funding to private universities that don’t even exist, by ending scholarships and raising barriers for Dalit, tribal and minority students, the Modi regime is reserving education only for those who can afford it. The agenda of the Modi regime is to reserve higher education for the Brahmanical upper-caste elites to fulfil the caste aspirations of its core voter base.
10) Universal social security: Social security schemes like pension, unemployment allowance, disability allowance, etc. are cast into the oblivion and the majority of the people are left with no social security coverage. It’s imperative for the government to provide universal social security to the population at a time when it’s claiming that the tax collection has considerably increased vis-a-vis past years.
Yet, remaining loyal to the diktats of the World Bank, IMF and the WTO, the Modi regime is determined to not allow any social-security scheme survive in India. For the working class, the peasantry, the distressed farmers and the toiling people, social security is a very basic need and when the government is extracting huge amount of indirect taxes and showing generosity to the big corporate houses by allowing them tax breaks, then it must also provide universal social security to the majority of the people, i.e. the poor.
11) No contractorisation: Since Indian economy was liberalised in the 1990s, contractual labour hiring became the mainstream norm and in the last two decades, businesses and the government enterprises have significantly reduced hiring full-time workers or employees and have stressed mostly on hiring contractual workers who neither have job security nor access to normal labour rights. It’s imperative for the resolution of the growing unemployment problem that the contractorisation of permanent jobs is stopped and existing contractual labour is regularised immediately.
Plus, the Union Government and different state governments must recruit regular workers and employees for all positions that are vacant since years, especially in Indian Railways. The hiring of regular working hands will surely resolve the problem of unemployment to some extent at this crucial juncture.
12) Redistributive land reforms: Land reform is a touchy issue for the BJP as the entire RSS-led Hindutva fascist camp stands on the support of the feudal landlord classes in the rural areas. Land reform, redistribution of cultivable land to landless families must be implemented throughout India to end rural poverty to some extent.
However, it can be gauged easily that neither the Modi regime or any other government that shows loyalty towards the feudal classes will never allow proper land reform to happen, which leaves the poor and the landless peasantry with no other option but wage a large-scale agrarian struggle to uproot feudalism and feudal production relations from the countryside.
13) Stop forcible land acquisition: By amending the land acquisition law and removing the clause of social impact assessment, the Modi regime is helping the big corporate houses to acquire land by force whenever and wherever they want to. Though the Modi regime had to retreat from the agenda temporarily a few years ago due to immense people’s resentment, it has started the process of bringing the amendment as its tenure nears the end.
14) Relief and rehabilitation for the victims of natural calamities: Be it the Kerala floods or the recent flood and landslides in Nagaland, the Modi regime continues to discriminate between states and people. In case of Kerala, its rightful dues were not given to the state, rather the entire Hindutva fascist camp campaigned against the flood-affected people of Kerala and stopped others from contributing or helping the flood victims
15) Reverse neo-liberal economic policies: The Modi regime and the Hindutva fascist bloc are actually servile agents of big foreign monopoly and finance capital that’s neo-colonising India through the neo-liberal economic route. The advent of the neo-liberal economy in the early 1990s also opened the floodgates of communal politics in India, which was not only legitimised but was accepted as the unofficial doctrine of the Indian state by the re-energised and reinvigorated upper-caste Hindu ruling classes.
Until the time India is freed from the neo-liberal economic exploitation and its politics is centred on building a socialistic economy that will uplift the poor and empower them every way, it will be impossible to get rid of the Hindutva fascist politics and its repercussions.
Though the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh rally raised these demands while marching towards the Indian Parliament, the CPI(M) itself has been following the prescription of the neo-liberal economy in whichever state it has ruled. It lost its one-time bastion West Bengal for exposing its shameless corporate appeasement and for trying to occupy the cultivable lands from the poor peasantry using brute force.
Now, when the CPI(M) talks about fighting the neo-liberal economy, it sounds more comical than ironical to anyone familiar with CPI(M)-led parliamentary left’s betrayal and capitulation before big corporate capital.
Still, the participants of the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh rally, especially those who came from states where the CPI(M) never ruled, actually demanded the above points honestly, because they know for sure that their survival is under threat and only through an intense struggle they can reclaim their right on their own country. They know that the neo-liberal economy and the policies of the government are pushing them to an extreme crisis, and thus, they want to force the government to reverse its policies. These poor peasants, marginal farmers, workers and women workers, who are fighting for their rights, are the makers of history. Their struggle itself is charting a new course in the political history of India.
Whether the spirit of the Mazdoor-Kisan Sangharsh rally or the Hindutva fascist agenda of Narendra Modi will win the battle between democracy and fascism depends on who leads the forces of progress and what strategy is adopted to deal with the fascist menace. If the struggling peasants and workers are able to purge the filth of opportunism and treachery that the CPI(M) represents, then they can surely surmount great difficulties and win victory against the Hindutva fascist rule of Narendra Modi and his masters, the big comprador capitalists, feudal landlords and foreign corporations. As the naked rule of fascism widens the scope of direct class confrontation and struggle for power, therefore, it’s certain that in the coming days, despite all betrayals by the opportunist section of the left, the peasants and workers will build up a massive struggle to overthrow the Hindutva fascist tyrannical rule and establish a people’s democratic state.