BJP’s Decadal Performance and Manifesto are a  betrayal of and assault on the farming communities of India!

BJP Manifesto 2024

Mainstream Political Party Manifestoes fall short of addressing severe agrarian crisis  and livelihood concerns of small, marginal farmers, fishers and agri workers!  

26th April 2024: As the country is in the midst of polling for the Lok Sabha elections, leaders of farmers movements, activists and researchers today called out mainstream political parties for their inadequate to insensitive approach towards some of the fundamental questions affecting the agrarian communities across India and the lack of a comprehensive vision, grounded in principles of equity, justice and sustainability. In particular, they lashed out at BJP – the party-in-power at the Centre, for the past 10 years, whose record and Manifesto has been a gross betrayal of and assault on the farming communities of India. Speakers at the Online Press Conference and Meeting organized by the National Alliance of Agrarian Communities of NAPM today afternoon, included Rambeti, Sangtin Kisan Mazdoor Sangathan (UP) and National Convenor, NAPM; Uttam Gayen, General Secretary, Paschim Banga Khet Majoor Samity (PBKMS); Pradip Chatterjee, National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers (NPSSFW); Dr. Sagari Ramdas, Food Sovereignty Alliance (FSA) and Medha Patkar, Narmada Bachao Andolan, MP & Maharashtra & NAPM. The session was moderated by: Maansi, Maadhyam and NAJAR.

Speaking on different aspects of the agrarian crisis and demands, the speakers:

·      Highlighted key issues of small and marginal farmers, fish workers, adivasi, dalit cultivators, agricultural workers, livestock rearers, women farmers and other communities, who form the bulk of the agrarian economy, but whose voices and issues remain largely unaddressed.

·      Reviewed the experiences of the past decade in the agrarian sector and the specific role of the Government of India and the BJP, which has intensified loot and distress of agrarian communities, while benefiting large corporations and tweaking laws in their favour.

·      Commented on the positions taken and promises made by various political parties in their manifestos with regard to the agrarian sector, in particular of BJP and INC, but also of some of the other parties such as DMK, TMC, CPM CPI-ML (Liberation) etc.

Rambeti said that the past 10 years rule of the BJP has been anti-farmer, anti-worker, anti-women and anti-youth and laws have been made to benefit companies, not common people. She spoke of the hardships rural agricultural workers in states like UP faced during lockdown and even after that. She highlighted the specific issues of women, small and marginal farmers and agri workers and the lack of support systems for them; be it of insurance, crop loss compensation etc. She also spoke of labour law violations such as increasing work hours from 8 to 12 hrs per day, in some states. She felt that since the INDIA Alliance and some of its constituent parties seem to acknowledge their issues, they are likely to support them, although these parties shall also be held accountable if they don’t keep up their poll promises.  

Pointing to the severe agrarian crisis in West Bengal, Uttam Gayen stated that due to the anti-federal nature of the ruling party at the Centre and the inability of the state government to address workers issues, MNREGA workers were badly affected. To this day, crores of rupees are pending as wage payments from Centre, forcing lakhs of farm workers to migrate to far-off states and their families live in precarious conditions. Despite legal and ground battles, payment are still pending. Although agricultural workers form the backbone of the agrarian economy, he said that the Govt lacks a vision for their welfare. The Govt needs to come up with policies both for small farmers and cultivators and also for the landless agricultural workers.

Giving a comprehensive overview of the challenges facing millions of small, traditional fish workers, Pradip Chatterjee lamented that both BJP and INC’s manifestoes reveal a lack of vision for the well-being of small fishers. Rather, there is a tilt towards commercialization and BJP’s approach, both in the past decade and in its manifesto unapologetically points to this. It is indeed sad that even after more than seven decades of independence, these issues remain unresolved and small scall fishers have no legal right to water bodies and fish resources for sustainable fishing, thus forcing many of them to migrate to other occupations. 

He condemned the top-down approach of building mega-ports, inland water ways, tourism hubs etc. without any consultation with small fisher communities, across India, violating the principles of climate justice. He rued that even the INC does not address demands of the community for withdrawal of the Indian Marine Fisheries Bill, Indian Major Ports Bill etc. Women fishers constitute more than 50% of the small-scale fishers and are more marginalized, but they there are no measures for them. The poll promises of diesel subsidy only helps mechanized fishing, leading to overfishing, impacting small fishers. The Pradhan Mantri Matsya Sampada Yojana (PMMSY) is not accessible to small fishers but helps fishing entrepreneurs. He also reiterated the demand for an independent Fisheries Ministry.

Dr. Sagari Ramdas made a detailed and comparative presentation of the manifestoes of different parties.  She called out the BJP Govt’s approach as a direct attack on the diversity of livestock-based livelihoods of adivasi, dalit, bahujan, vimukta communities across India. She said that the livelihoods of close to 500 million people in the nation are linked to meat, however the ruling party has been showing utter disrespect for the rights of these citizens and infact has been vilifying and targeting communities for their food and livelihood practices. The problem of stray animals in the past few years and crops being destroyed has also been primarily due to BJP’s faulty and regressive policies.

She questioned the mega milk monopolies and felt this infringes on state autonomy and rights of small milk producers. She felt even the INC has reduced the livestock-livelihoods largely to dairy and has failed to look at the diversity beyond this. She stated that BJP has been undermining the federal nature of the Constitution and the powers of state governments to frame polices, different from the centralized manuvadi diktats. She also spoke of other important aspects such as need for land reforms, grazing rights, implementation of FRA, protection of commons etc.

Typing up the various points that came up in the session, Medha Patkar underlined that all categories of workers and producers in the agrarian sector – be it small, tenant and marginal farmers, agricultural workers, fisher people, forest dwelling and adivasi communities, livestock rearers etc. are farmers and we must unite to organize for their rights to recognition, dignity, life and livelihood.  She pointed out that the Rs. 6,000/- per annum promise by BJP is a hogwash and is nothing in comparison to the actual costs that farmers incur.  She asserted that insurance must not be privatized and co-operatives must be in the hands of rural communities. She endorsed the need for immediate increase in NREGA wages.

While the INC Manifesto fares little better, it also falls short of the core demands of the historic farmers movement which witnessed the martyrdom of more than 750 farmers. She reiterated the need to struggle on the twin laws that the movement tried to pursue: Bill for Freedom from Debt and Bill for Fair and Remunerative Prices for all crops.  Pointing to the mega-corporatization of the farming sector, she also questioned as to how can the Government of India can enter into huge agri-business deals with Govt of United States, while the Model Code of Conduct for elections is in vouge! India needs to have its own economic autonomy, with the small and marginal farmers and producers at the centre of decision-making and we cannot just be a market for the WTO, ‘first world nations’ or even for domestic corporates like Adanis and Ambanis !

Some of the speakers also observed that the manifestoes of some of the left parties such as CPM and CPI-ML (Liberation) etc reflected some of the demands, emerging from movements, indicating their association with people’s movements on the ground. However, other mainstream parties have either made cursory references to significant aspects, or remained silent on key issues or even took positions that do not benefit the agrarian communities, at large.

All speakers asserted that the National Alliance of Agrarian Communities / Rashtriya Kisani Manch shall continue to raise and organize on the many important issues of agrarian communities, regardless of which party assumes power after these elections. We are cognizant of the threats posed by the BJP to the Constitution and democracy and hence shall challenge it on ground and during the election period. We call upon all nature-based communities to unite, in order to defend our country from authoritarian rule, anti-agrarian policies and uphold the Constitution, democracy and our ecological commons.

A full recording of the session can be accessed at this link:

E-mail: [email protected]

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