Kunjan Pulayan is like any other agricultural worker in Thrissur/Kerala literally living on the edge. What makes him special is his determination to contest the ensuing elections. He is not fighting to win, but to create awareness about the plight of farmers.
It is so heartening to see a landless farmer taking the electoral plunge for the sake of the farming community. Makes it more important given the fact that every eight contenders in the first round of elections scheduled for April 16 is a crorepati. Democracy is increasingly becoming a money and power game where if you don't have enough money you can only vote. More and more crorepatis (millionaires) are in the fray, and interestingly more millionaires are also now turning out to be winners.
In the last Assembly elections in Delhi, there were 40 candidates whose assets exceeded Rs 5 crore (or Rs 50 million). Of which, 13 made it. But more significantly, none of the 200 candidates with less than Rs 5 lakh were even a close contender. Elections is all about big money and moolah power.
Democracy is on sale. In Andhra Pradesh, which tops the list of crorepatis in Elections 2009, 64 crorepatis are in fray. Followed by Uttar Pradesh where Congress has fielded 45 crorepatis and BJP has announced 30 crorepatis in its list. Maharashtra follows with 29 crorepatis, and the backward province of Bihar with 23 crorepatis.
Amidst so much of money power you still think some candidate or some political party is sensitive to the crying needs of the poor and marginalised? You think they are concerned about farmer suicides, hunger and malnutrition? You must be stupid, if you think so. Times have changed, and changed rapidly. Just 60 years after Independence, democracy is no longer of the people, by the people and for the people. It is now on sale. The more the money you pump in, the more the chances that you will be voted to power. Kunjan Pulayan knows this. But still, is keen to make an effort. I wish him success.
Green voice from Kerala hinterland
Thrissur: Kunjan Pulayan looks sadly at his empty barn as his wife Ammini asks him to borrow paddy from a relative. “I am a landless farm worker. Sometime back, I leased some land and started farming. But now farmlands in the village are shrinking because of the sand mafia,” he says.
Mr. Pulayan and agricultural workers at Muriyad in Thrissur’s rural hinterland tell a tale of empty barns, shrinking paddy fields and failed dreams. It is to highlight their woes that Mr. Pulayan has decided to contest the Thrissur Lok Sabha seat. The 52-year-old farm worker represents ‘Poura Munnettam,’ a forum with no political affiliation.
“Political issues do not concern us. We are concerned only with protection and irrigation of our paddy fields. Also, we want to get fair prices for farm products,” he declares.
Under the banner of the Karshaka Munnettam, the Muriyad agitation was launched in 2007 after the area under cultivation in the region shrunk from 4,452 hectares to 2,833 hectares because of the sand/clay mining, conversion of paddy fields to brick kilns, and large-scale procurement of land from indigent farmers by sand miners.
The farmers want a permanent ban on sand mining, drainage of water from paddy fields, and the setting up of a land development authority exclusively for Muriyad.
He is proud of his surname, Pulayan (a Dalit community). “Do you know the meaning of ‘Pulayan’?” he asks. “It means ‘one who works on the land.’ Our community is rooted in agriculture. As far as I know, five generations of my family have been engaged in farming,” he says. “I am not contesting to win. It is only to highlight the need for a farmer’s voice to be heard in Parliament,” he adds.