Sep 17, 2016

India's major farmer and fisherfolk unions/organisations come together under the banner of Kisan Ekta.

Farmer leaders at the 4th National Convention of Farmer Organisations, held at Akola, Sept 12-14

In August 2015, we took the initiative of bringing together the major farm unions of the country onto one platform. It was a difficult task and not many believed that this will eventually happen. But I persisted, and so did my colleagues from the farming unions/organisations. Within a year and a half -- Kisan Ekta -- the banner under which the collective has come together, held its 4th National Convention of Farmer Organisations, at Akola, in Maharashtra, Sept 12-14, 2016. 

The three earlier conventions were held at Chandigarh, Bangalore and Shimla.

In my understanding there are some 65 major farmer organisations in the country. I am pleased to inform that 62 are formally members of Kisan Ekta. Together, they represent some 400 million farmers of this country (including their families). Some of the member organisations are: Bharti Kisan Union (Rajewal); BKU (Haryana); BKU (UP); BKU (Asli); Shetkari Sanghatana; Karnataka Rajya Ryotha Sangha (KRRS); Tamilnadu Farmers Association; Bhartiya Kisan Sangh; Bhartiya Kisan Morcha; Gujarat Khedut Samaj; South India Sugarcane Farmers Association (SISFA) Tamil Nadu; Red Gram Growers Association, Gulbargha; Joint Action Committee (JAC) from Andhra Pradesh and Telangana, Aam Kisan Union, Madhya Pradesh; Fruits, Vegetable & Flowers Growers Association (Himachal Pradesh), Krishak Biradari (Chhattisgarh); Dharthiputar Bachao Sanghatan (Rajasthan); Orissa Nari Samaj, Bhubaneshwar; All India Kisan Sabha (CPI); Indian Sugarcane Farmers Association, Bangalore; Bharat Krishak Samaj and so on. 

In the last convention that was held at Shimla, Kisan Ekta also took the initiative to reach out to the fisherfolk unions/organisations in the country. Two major fishermen unions, from Manipur and Bengal, joined the Shimla convention. I am now hoping that most of the fisherfolk unions will be part of Kisan Ekta as the year 2016 ends. We then plan to reach out to the tribals and finally to the farm workers. 

This coming together of some of the largest but also warring unions of farmers is being watched very keenly by not only the political outfits but also the media and academia. The mere fact that Kisan Ekta was able to hold its 4th Convention and that too within a year and a half, and without getting any external financial support, is indicative of the merit farmer organisations see in this initiative. We are very hopeful that if all goes well, Kisan Ekta will be able to significantly influence the 2019 Parliament elections. 

At present, the Kisan Ekta activities are being coordinated by a team of three -- Devinder Sharma; Chandrasekhar Kodihalli (President, Karnataka Rajya Ryotha Sangha); Balbir Singh Rajewal (President, BKU-Rajewal).


At the Akola conclave, Kisan Ekta passed five resolutions: 1) Implementation of Swaminathan Committee recommendation of 50 per cent profit over cost of production. 2) Ensuring income parity for farmers, fishermen, and farm workers with the central government employees. This means setting up a Farmers Income Commission to provide a guaranteed monthly income to farmers. 3) Redesign import export policy to ensure that cheaper imports do not flood the domestic market driving farmers out of agriculture. Import tariffs of pulses, oilseeds, cotton, apple to be raised to stop unwanted imports. 4) Ban the risky, harmful and unproductive GM Mustard. Instead, the government should provide farmers with a higher support price for oilseeds along with assured procurement to boost domestic oilseeds production 5) Oppose the land acquisition laws being formulated by States on the model of the central land acquisition act forcing hundreds of thousands of farmers out of their fertile land, their only source of livelihood. Demands specifically that Gujarat, Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Maharashtra Governements which are going ahead with large-scale acquisiton and hence displacement of farmers be stopped herewith. Kisan Ekta resolves to stand by all efforts that are underway to oppose the farm land grab that the states are indulging in.

The 4th Convention also worked out a time bound schedule of activities. This includes approaches to reach out to farmers, build stronger alliances at the state level to strengthen farmers movement. By 2019, the farmers movement under the banner of Kisan Ekta should be powerful enough to influence the electoral process.

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