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Samyukta Morcha rallies seek to give jolt to rulers, sharpen worker-peasant unity

By Harsh Thakor* 

From November 26-28th the cities of India, including Lucknow, Chandigarh, Bangalore and Patna were flooded with the workers and farmers led by Samyukta Kisan Morcha, posing a challenge to the wave of repressive neo-fascist policies of the Modi govt. Intensity of the protestors was impressive. Very significant in sharpening bond of worker-peasant unity, and sharpening the broad base of the movement. Around 3000 assembled in Bangalore and Haryana, 2000 in Delhi and around 1500 each in Lucknow and Patna. Revolutionary democratic spirit was ignited at its boiling point, hitting the ruling class parties in their very backyard. A major jolt was delivered to the rulers at the Centre, exposing their nefarious polices at the very core.
Sukhdev Singh Khokri, secretary of BKU(Ugrahan) spoke most positively of the gathering in Chandigarah ,being impressed by the unity of diverse sections .Arjun Prasad Singh echoed similar views on the rallies in other parts like Haryana. Delhi, Bangalore and Patna.

Lucknow

The three-day Mahapadav mass sit in was staged by Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) and the Joint Committee of Trade Unions (JCTU). As thousands of farmers and workers thronged to the Eco Garden demanding legal guarantee of procurement of crops at minimum support price (MSP) on the basis of the Swaminathan Commission's recommendations, repealing of four labour codes for workers, more work under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA) and regularisation of scheme workers' service, the ground, which turned into "a sea of red", was a sight to witness.
The participants included 40-year-old Aarti, a midday meal (MDM) cook from Pakardiha, Siddharthnagar, whose central question was, "How do we run our families in Rs 2,500?"
Aarti, a sole breadwinner, burst into tears while recounting her ordeal. She said the situation deteriorated from bad to worse. They have been denied their monthly honorarium since August, says Aarti, adding that procuring salaries four to five months late has become a routine practice in the state.
"With this pay, neither can we support our families nor do anything for ourselves. We are being treated worse than slaves. We have thus joined a three-day sit-in protest and want a wage hike from Rs 2,000 to Rs 25,000 a month for each cook. Apart from the issue of minimum wages, we also demand social security benefits for workers, like provident funds, gratuity, and ESI facilities."
Currently, the midday meal cook-cum-helpers are earning a bare monthly salary of Rs 2,000 despite working for six to seven hours daily. Moreover, due to the summer holidays in the schools, they get a salary for only 10 months a year.
"When teachers get a salary for twelve months, why can't we? We work till the end of May but do not get salaries for May and June. We cook and maintain the kitchen per regulations but are forced to do housekeeping work like cleaning the washroom, mopping, preparing tea and snacks for teachers, etc. and leave one hour after school ends. All this is not part of our job. When we refuse to do extra work, teachers threaten to fire us from our jobs," said another MDM cook, Rita Devi.
Both Aarti and Rita Devi have laboured as midday meal cooks at government schools for the past 15 years, wishing they would earn adequate salaries one day, but they believe the ruling government is shattering their dreams.
Asha Devi, another MDM cook from Chandauli district, accused the administration of pressuring them to "produce children" to save their jobs. "Women who are widows and single breadwinners are preferred for jobs, but at old age, we are being asked to produce children and enrol them at school; otherwise, we might lose our job," she stated.
The three-day Mahapadav (mass sit-in) was organised by Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) and the Joint Committee of Trade Unions (JCTU) from November 26 in Lucknow's Eco Garden where farmers and workers from a vast cross-section united to raise their demands.
Their demands include the regularisation of Anganwadi, Asha, and Midday Meal Scheme workers by giving them a minimum wage of Rs 26,000, implementation of MGNREGA; expansion in urban areas as well as providing 200 working days at a wage of Rs 600/day, implementation of Old Pension Scheme (OPS) for the employees of electricity board, municipal corporations, other boards and corporations.

Chandigarh

Farmers from various regions of Punjab assembled at the Mohali-Chandigarh border on Sunday, embarking on a three-day nationwide protest organised by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha. The demonstration seeks a legal guarantee for the minimum support price (MSP) for agricultural produce. Stringent security steps were undertaken as a precaution of the protest, with traffic being diverted to alternative routes on certain roads, according to officials.
The farmers' key demands include the withdrawal of cases filed against them during the 2020-21 agitation against the now-repealed farm laws, compensation, and employment for family members of deceased farmers, debt waivers, and pensions. The Samyukta Kisan Morcha serves as an umbrella organisation for various farmer unions.
Farmers from multiple regions, including Ludhiana, Ferozepur, and Sangrur, started to gather at the Mohali-Chandigarh border along Phase-11 in Mohali and the IISER chowk road on Sunday. Arriving on tractor trolleys, they brought essential supplies such as ration, bedding, utensils, and cooking gas for the three-day protest. Harinder Singh Lakhowal, General Secretary of Bharti Kisan Union (Lakhowal), stated that hundreds of farmers had already reached the protest site, with many more en route on tractors.
A participating farmer told PTI, "I left my village in Ferozepur around noon on Saturday and reached the Mohali-Chandigarh border around 2 am." The Punjab and Chandigarh Police tightened security near the border, building barricades and deploying water cannons.
The other demands of the Mahapadav included a guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) on all crops with the formula of C-2 plus 50% as per the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission, farmers' crops should be protected from stray animals and the ban on the sale of cattle for slaughter in animal markets should be withdrawn. The four labour codes and the fixed-term employment law should be scrapped and the government must ensure equality and safety at work.
Farmers who had been camping for three days at Mohali and Panchkula, bordering Chandigarh, Tuesday called off their protest after meeting the governors of Punjab and Haryana, but warned of an “agitation bigger than the one held for the now-repealed three agri laws” if the Centre and the state governments fail to fulfil their long pending demands.
“This was a trailer. A bigger agitation will be held if the government does not show seriousness towards our demands,” said Harinder Singh Lakhowal, general secretary, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal).
Lakhowal was talking to reporters after a delegation of farmers met Punjab Governor Banwari Lal Purohit and submitted a memorandum of demands. Separately, another delegation met Haryana Governor Bandaru Dattatreya and submitted three memorandums — one addressed to President Droupadi Murmu and two to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar.
Suresh Koth, a farm union leader from Haryana, told reporters that they “want to give a clear warning to the government that we have and we can fight” for the farmers’ rights. “If the government does not fulfil our demands, then you will see a bigger agitation than the one which was seen against the now-repealed farm laws,” Koth warned.
On November 26 farmers gathered in Mohali and Panchkula, along Chandigarh border, demanding, among other things, a legal guarantee for minimum support price for all the crops, enacting a law guaranteeing purchase of crops, and pension of Rs 10,000 per month to farmers above the age of 60 years. They are also demanding the withdrawal of cases lodged against them during the 2020-21 stir against the farm laws, compensation and jobs for any one of the family members of farmers who died during the stir, cancellation of FIRs against farmers for burning paddy stubble, debt waiver and abolishing the law to install chip-based power meters. They are also demanding the removal and arrest of Union Minister of State for Home Affairs Ajay Mishra Teni, who, according to them, is the alleged “culprit of the Lakhimpur Kheri killing of farmers on October 3, 2021.
All India Kisan Sabha’s Haryana unit president Balbir Singh said that a memorandum addressed to the CM Khattar pertaining to labourers who are demanding a minimum monthly wage of Rs 26,000.
Among the Haryana specific demands, the farmer bodies have demanded compensation for the flood-hit farmers and labourers. They have also demanded ompensation at the rate of Rs 50,000 per acre to those farmers whose crops of moong, bajra, cotton and gaur were affected by drought this year. The SKM leaders were firm that the process of passport and arms licenses of farmers should not be blocked just because they participated in the farmer agitations.
The farmer leaders accused the Centre of robbing them by not implementing the promises which it had pledged to them after the agitation ended in 2021.
In the memorandum addressed to the President, the farmers mentioned those demands too for which they have been struggling for the past several years. They also demanded an increase in tax rates for the corporate sector while seeking brakes on the privatisation and selling of Public Sector Undertakings.
The SKM also demanded scrapping of the Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2022. Punjab farmers are also demanding a compensation for crop loss caused by floods in July and August, Rs 450 a quintal for sugarcane, and release of pending cane payment. In Chandigarh, the capital of Punjab, farmers have been blocking the road for the last 2 days against the government not fulfilling their demand for MSP.
Farmers had also voiced the demand for fixing the MSP of crops, after which the government had said that their demand would be fulfilled soon. But farmer organizations state that even after 2 years, the central and state governments have been absolutely passive on this demand of the farmers. After the announcement of Bharatiya Kisan Union and United Kisan Morcha, groups of farmers from across the state thronged to Chandigarh and camped around the borders of the city.
Let us tell you that farmers from far-flung areas of Punjab have reached Chandigarh in tractor-trolleys to protest. Heavy police force was deployed to stop the farmers trying to enter the city, due to which groups of farmers occupied both sides of the Chandigarh-Mohali highway. In Panchkula also, the farmers who came from Haryana have laid siege.
Farmer leader Rajinder Singh said, “The government is retreating from our demand of loan waiver, MSP, Electricity Amendment Bill-2020 and complete repeal of the Agriculture Bill, hence we had to take this decision”.
He further said that “the present government is not standing with the farmers and laborers. The little rights they have are being snatched away by the government and given to corporate houses. The Modi government at the Center has waived off loans worth Rs 13.86 lakh crore of big capitalists in the last 9 years. But it is not waiving off only 10 percent of this huge loan which is owed by the farmers of Punjab, which is against its intention. There is enough to tell”.
The farmers' strike which was going on for the last three days at Chandigarh-Mohali border and Panchkula has ended. Farmer organizations have taken this decision after meeting the Governor.
It is known that farmers were protesting for the last three days regarding their several demands including guarantee of MSP. The farmers said that “the Modi government at the Center and the Bhagwant Mann government of the state are also shying away from their promises made to them. During the farmers' movement of 2020-21, farmers were guaranteed that all their demands would be fulfilled soon, but even after 2 years, they have been completely ignored. We were forced to take the path of protest.
A delegation of Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) met Governor Banwari Lal Purohit and placed their demands before him. After meeting the Governor, the farmer organizations gave an ultimatum to fulfill their demands by December 11 and announced to close the protest for the time being.
After this announcement, farmer leaders met Punjab Agriculture Minister Gurmeet Singh Khudia and placed their demands before him. Subsequently the Agriculture Minister also guaranteed the farmers that Chief Minister Bhagwant Mann is ready for a meeting with the farmer leaders on December 19.
Last Sunday, the farmers of Punjab-Haryana struggled valiantly for MSP, escalation in the price of sugarcane, lifting of cases registered during the farmers' movement, compensation to the family of the farmer who lost his life during the movement, job for one member, loan waiver etc. They waged a sit in strike with their tractor-trolleys in Chandigarh-Mohali and Panchkula regarding the issues.
During the protest, farmer leader Rajinder Singh said, “The government is retreating from our demands of loan waiver, MSP, Electricity Amendment Bill-2020 and complete repeal of the Agriculture Bill, hence we had to take this decision”.
He further said that “the present government is not standing with the farmers and laborers. The little rights they have are being snatched away by the government and given to corporate houses. The Modi government at the Center has waived off loans worth Rs 13.86 lakh crore of big capitalists in the last 9 years. But it is not waiving off only 10 percent of this huge loan which is owed by the farmers of Punjab, which is against its intention. There is enough to tell”.
The same farmer leader Harmeet Kadian said, “Our demands are also from the Punjab government that we should get compensation for the loss of crops due to the floods in July-August this year and we should also get fair prices for crops like sugarcane, maize and green gram. Whatever sugarcane dues should be given to the farmers soon, the cases filed against the farmers due to stubble burning should also be withdrawn.”
On the other hand, the delegation of farmers from Haryana gathered in Panchkula met Governor Bandaru Dattatreya and submitted a memorandum of their demands.
Farmer leader Raman Mann, who returned after meeting the Governor, said, “We will wait for the government's decision till December 11, if our demands are not met then further strategy will be prepared.” We have submitted all our demands to the Governor. He has promised us that he will convey our demands to the President as well as the Central Government.
Farmer leader Suresh Koth said, “Along with the Modi government at the Centre, we give this last warning to all the state governments to stop misleading the farmers. In the last two years, farmer organizations have submitted 15 memorandums to the government, but our views are not being listened to. If the government does not accept our demands, a bigger movement will be launched in the future.”
In Patna the farmers’ protests took on a vociferous shape with fervour of worker-peasant fermenting at optimum height. In no uncertain terms the leaders and protestors condemned the fascistic pro corporate policies of Narendra Modi. It voiced 23 demands including guarantee of minimum support price, scraping of 4 labour laws, implementation of the pension scheme, scrapping of APMC, checking price rise, implementation of MGNREGA and improving it’s payments, scrapping land debts from the peasants secure employment for all,compensate Batedar peasants, awarding fair compensation to farmers for land.

Bangalore

Thousands of people including farmers, labourers, women, youth, and activists assembled at Freedom Park for 3days from November 26th to stage a protest organised by pro-people forces , Samyukta Kisan Morcha and Central Trade Unions, condemning the government’s conspirational or d anti-people policies and pro-corporate stance. The agitators demanded that the state government eradicate all anti-people policies.
The protest aimed to condemn the Central government’s alleged neglect of workers’ rights, echoing the 2022 farmers struggle. Viju Krishnan, national leader of Samyukta Kisan Morcha, criticised the government’s pro-corporate stance, highlighting broken promises.
The protesters also stressed the imperative nature for transformation in policies, ahead of the 2024 elections. Badagalapura Nagendra, state president of Karnataka State Farmers Association, emphasised the role of people’s movements in influencing electoral outcomes. A memorandum that listed 20 demands was submitted to the Governor and Revenue Minister Krishna Byre Gowda, urging the government to fulfill their demands at the earliest.

Weakness

The SKM is unable to adopt a clear cut stand on political issues, with many of it’s constituents supporting candidates of their own choice, They have given no concrete alternative to overpower the fascist BJP, in assembly, or Lok Sabha Elections. It has been unable to confront imperialism as such, give an effective knock out punch to the neo-liberal economy,or project a genuine revolutionary democratic alternative. It has failed to link the agitation with agrarian movement as a whole. and devoid of revolutionary class politics.
---
*Freelance journalist

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