She also expressed dismay that the government did not even care to provide food to the migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic-induced lockdown
Mohd Aasif | Clarion India
NEW DELHI – Social activist Medha Patkar, who is also a member of the Working Committee of All India Farmers’ Struggle Convening Committee (AIFSCC), has supported the November 26 nationwide general strike called by trade unions against labour laws, as also farmers’ November 26-27 agitation against the recent farm Bills.
Patkar spoke on the issues of workers and farmers in a Facebook Live on Tuesday and gave the slogan of Ghera Dalo, Dera Dalo (Ghereo and Stay Put). Gherao is a kind of labourers’ protest by surrounding someone in authority till demands are met.
In India, every 17 minutes, a farmer dies by suicide and the community is still in disappointment. The crisis farmers of the country have been facing for 70 years has been at its peak during the regime of the current government.
Patkar (65) said that capitalists owed Rs 68,000 crores of loan and some of them have fled the country or they were allowed to flee. She also expressed dismay that the government did not even care to provide food to the migrant workers during the coronavirus pandemic-induced lockdown.
Lately, the Central government has amended many laws. Patkar said that many laws are being amended against the spirit of the Constitution. The government should bring about the changes in view of Article 47, that defines duty of the State to raise the level of nutrition and the standard of living and to improve public health, she said.
Patkar deplored the fact that the provision of resources for development should not be concentrated in the hands of a few people.
As per the common understanding of the activists fighting for the rights of the labour class, farmers are defined as the people living on natural resources like fishery, animal husbandry. Also, labourers working on the farmlands should be considered as farmers.
As a climate activist, she pointed out the worldwide problem of climate change which, she said, could destroy the entire humanity as the clock was ticking. “Are our leaders in the government aware about it? If yes, then why do they allot the thousands of acres of farming land for non-farming projects?”she wondered.
Calling the three recently-introduced farm bills ‘black’, Patkar said, “These Bills are similar to the laws brought in by the Englishmen during the British rule in India.”
Recalling the horrors of the 1950s famine of West Bengal, she said that cereals were brought into the essential commodity Act. “Based on the experience of the famine, the hoarding of the cereals was banned as it is a potential cause of famine in the future”, she added.
The farm Bills drafted by the Modi government have amended laws of storage and brought back what was earlier banned in the country. The huge godowns Adanis and Ambanis will hoard the essential cereals, said Patkar.
The Public Distribution System (PDS) allows states to provide cereals to the poor through fair-price shops (FPS). However, social activists believe that the government is conspiring to end the PDS or ration system. In place of giving cereals through FPS, the government is trying to replace it with direct transaction in lieu of food.
“The long-term effect of this Bill will push the larger population of the country towards destitution due to the major problem of alcoholism among men in lower class,” she said.
The major apprehension of the farmers and activists is that the minimum support price (MSP) and the agricultural produce market committees (APMCs) will be doomed. “The Ambanis and Adanis have started constructing godowns after the attack on the minimum support price law and the agricultural produce market committees,” she said.
Patkar seemed wary of putting the faith in the government over three farm Bills as of the past experience by putting faith in the BJP leaders by bringing them to power. “Contract farming has already been opposed by the farmers of Punjab and Gujarat”, she said.
Patkar also said that the electricity Bill 2020 would diminish the difference between electricity supply rate for farmers and other consumers.