A meeting of the central office bearers of the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) held in New Delhi yesterday decided to support the idea of a Long March of the Dispossessed to Delhi to demand a special session of Parliament called entirely to discuss the serious agrarian crisis in the country.
This unprecedented agrarian crisis is reflected in the lakhs of suicides of debt-ridden peasants; the thousands of deaths of children and women due to starvation and malnutrition; the abysmal state of rural education and public health; the massive increase in rural unemployment and landlessness; and the unheard-of rise in economic and social inequality in the country.
There is now not an iota of doubt that this grave situation has been aggravated by the neo-liberal policies followed by the ruling classes during the last two and a half decades. The last four years have thoroughly exposed the Modi government as the most anti-farmer, anti-worker, pro-corporate and pro-imperialist government in Independent India. Along with this is its rabidly communal, casteist and divisive character.
The AIKS appeals to the broadest sections of progressive, democratic and secular organizations and individuals in the country who are sensitive to the intense pain and hardships being faced by farmers, both men and women, and their children, to support this idea of a Long March of the Dispossessed, to participate in it in huge numbers and to help it in any way that they can.
The AIKS appeals to all sections of farmers, agricultural workers, the working class, the middle class, students, youth and socially oppressed sections like women, Dalits, Adivasis, Minorities and others to support and join this Long March of the Dispossessed.
After a wider consultation with all concerned organizations and individuals, the date and programme of the March can be decided with consensus.
In the meanwhile, the AIKS calls upon all its units throughout the country to make a massive success of the three campaigns and agitations that have already been decided:
1. The 10 crore countrywide signature campaign on the burning demands of the peasantry;
2. The nationwide district-level Jail Bharo stir by lakhs of peasants and workers on August 9, Quit India Day;
3. The massive five lakh-strong All India Mazdoor-Kisan Rally in Delhi on September 5 organised jointly by the CITU, AIKS and AIAWU.
Dr Ashok Dhawale President Hannan Mollah General Secretary All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS)
Imagine a democratic protest where a million farmers, labourers and others march to the capital and compel discussion of the exploding crisis of the countryside in a special three-week session of Parliament
India’s agrarian crisis has gone beyond the agrarian.
It’s a crisis of society. Maybe even a civilizational crisis, with perhaps the largest body of small farmers and labourers on earth fighting to save their livelihoods. The agrarian crisis is no longer just a measure of loss of land. Nor only a measure of loss of human life, jobs or productivity. It is a measure of our own loss of humanity. Of the shrinking boundaries of our humaneness. That we have sat by and watched the deepening misery of the dispossessed, including the death by suicide of well over 300,000 farmers these past 20 years. While some – ‘leading economists’ – have mocked the enormous suffering around us, even denying the existence of a crisis.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) has not published data on farmers’ suicides for two years now. For some years before that, fraudulent data logged in by major states severely distorted the agency’s estimates. For instance, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal and many others claimed ‘zero suicides’ by farmers in their states. In 2014, 12 states and 6 Union Territories claimed ‘zero suicides’ among their farmers. The 2014 and 2015 NCRB reports saw huge, shameless fiddles in the methodology – aimed at bringing down the numbers.
And yet they keep rising.
Meanwhile, protests by farmers and labourers are on the rise. Farmers have been shot dead – as in Madhya Pradesh. Derided or cheated in agreements, as in Maharashtra. And devastated by demonetisation, as in just about everywhere. Anger and pain are mounting in the countryside. And not just among farmers but amongst labourers who find the MNREGA being dismantled by design. Amongst fisherfolk, forest communities, artisans, exploited anganwadi workers. Amongst those who send their children to government schools, only to find the state itself killing its own schools. Also, small government employees and transport and public sector workers whose jobs are on the anvil.
And the crisis of the rural is no longer confined to the rural. Studies suggest an absolute decline in employment in the country between 2013-14 and 2015-16.
The 2011 Census signalled perhaps the greatest distress-driven migrations we’ve seen in independent India. And millions of poor fleeing the collapse of their livelihoods have moved out to other villages, rural towns, urban agglomerations, big cities – in search of jobs that are not there. Census 2011 logs nearly 15 million fewer farmers (‘main cultivators’) than there were in 1991. And you now find many once-proud food-producers working as domestic servants. The poor are now up for exploitation by both urban and rural elites.
The government tries its best not to listen. It’s the same with the news media.
When the media do skim over the issues, they mostly reduce them to demands for a ‘loan waiver.’ In recent days, they’ve recognised the minimum support price (MSP) demand of farmers – the Cost of Production (CoP2) + 50 per cent. But the media don’t challenge the government’s claims of already having implemented this demand. Nor do they mention that the National Commission on Farmers (NCF; popularly known as the Swaminathan Commission) flagged a bunch of other, equally serious issues. Some of the NCF’s reports have remained in Parliament 12 years without discussion. Also the media, while denouncing loan waiver appeals, won’t mention that corporates and businessmen account for the bulk of the non-performing assets drowning the banks.
Perhaps the time has come for a very large, democratic protest, alongside a demand for Parliament to hold a three-week or 21-day special session dedicated entirely to the crisis and related issues. A joint session of both houses.
On what principles would that session be based? The Indian Constitution. Specifically, the most important of its Directive Principles of State Policy. That chapter speaks of a need to “minimise the inequalities in income” and “endeavour to eliminate inequalities in status, facilities, opportunities….” The principles call for “a social order in which justice, social, economic and political, shall inform all the institutions of the national life.”
The right to work, to education, to social security. The raising of the level of nutrition and of public health. The right to a better standard of living. Equal pay for equal work for men and women. Just and humane conditions of work. These are amongst the main principles. The Supreme Court has more than once said the Directive Principles are as important as our Fundamental Rights.
An agenda for the special session? Some suggestions that others concerned by the situation can amend or add to:
3 days: Discussion of the Swaminathan Commission report – 12 years overdue.
It submitted five reports between December 2004 and October 2006 that cover a multitude of vital issues and not just MSP. Those include, to name a few: productivity, profitability, sustainability; technology and technology fatigue; dryland farming, price shocks and stabilisation – and much more. We also need to halt the privatisation of agricultural research and technology. And deal with impending ecological disaster.
3 days: People’s testimonies.
Let victims of the crisis speak from the floor of Parliament’s central hall and tell the nation what the crisis is about, what it has done to them and countless millions of others. And it’s not just about farming. But how surging privatisation of health and education has devastated the rural poor, indeed all the poor. Health expenditure is either the fastest or second fastest growing component of rural family debt.
3 days: Credit crisis.
The unrelenting rise of indebtedness. This has been a huge driving factor in the suicide deaths of countless thousands of farmers, apart from devastating millions of others. Often it has meant loss of much or all of their land. Policies on institutional credit paved the way for the return of the moneylender.
3 days: The country’s mega water crisis.
It’s much greater than a drought. This government seems determined to push through privatisation of water in the name of ‘rational pricing’. We need the right to drinking water established as a fundamental human right – and the banning of privatisation of this life-giving resource in any sector. Ensuring social control and equal access, particularly to the landless.
3 days: The rights of women farmers.
The agrarian crisis cannot be resolved without engaging with the rights – including those of ownership – and problems of those who do the most work in the fields and farms. While in the Rajya Sabha, Prof. Swaminathan introduced the Women Farmers’ Entitlements Bill, 2011 (lapsed in 2013) that could still provide a starting point for this debate.
3 days: The rights of landless labourers, both women and men.
With mounting distress migrations in many directions, this crisis is no longer just rural. Where it is, any public investment made in agriculture has to factor in their needs, their rights, their perspective.
3 days: Debate on agriculture.
What kind of farming do we want 20 years from now? One driven by corporate profit? Or by communities and families for whom it is the basis of their existence? There are also other forms of ownership and control in agriculture we need to press for – like the vigorous sangha krishi (group farming) efforts of Kerala’s Kudumbashree movement. And we have to revive the unfinished agenda of land reform. For all of the above debates to be truly meaningful – and this is very important – every one of them must focus, too, on the rights of Adivasi and Dalit farmers and labourers.
While no political party would openly oppose such a session, who will ensure it actually happens? The dispossessed themselves.
In March this year, 40,000 peasants and labourers marched for a week from Nashik to Mumbai making some of these very demands. An arrogant government in Mumbai dismissed the marchers as ‘urban Maoists’ with whom it would not talk. But caved in within hours of the multitude reaching Mumbai to encircle the state legislative assembly. That was the rural poor sorting out their government.
The highly disciplined marchers struck a rare chord in Mumbai. Not just the urban working class, but also the middle classes, even some from the upper middle classes, stepped out in sympathy.
We need to do this at the national level – scaled up 25 times over. A Long March of the Dispossessed – not just of farmers and labourers, but also others devastated by the crisis. And importantly, those not affected by it – but moved by the misery of fellow human beings. Those standing for justice and democracy. A march starting from everywhere in the country, converging on the capital. No Red Fort rallies, nor skulls at Jantar Mantar. That march should encircle Parliament – compel it to hear, listen and act. Yes, they would Occupy Delhi.
It might take many months to get off the ground, a gargantuan logistical challenge. One that has to be met by the largest and widest coalition possible of farm, labour and other organisations. It will face great hostility from the rulers – and their media – who would seek to undermine it at every stage.
It can be done. Do not underestimate the poor – it is they, not the chattering classes, who keep democracy alive.
It would be one of the highest forms of democratic protest – a million human beings or more showing up to ensure their representatives perform. As a Bhagat Singh, if alive, might have said of them: they could make the deaf hear, the blind see and the dumb speak.
As an Indian, I feel absolutely elated that Indian Film superstars such as yourselves not only enjoy the adulation and demigod status with a humongous fan-following in our country but also across a country like China which seems so alien to our culture and ethos. But it just proves that talent can transcend all borders and language does not pose any kind of barrier.
It is but natural with your popularity growing exponentially across the globe; the large corporate and marketing gurus see great potential in investing in you as brand ambassadors, so that your charisma and popularity can rub off on their brands and boost the sales of their products.
I would like to bring to your attention certain facts behind Chinese products which celebrities endorse. A word of caution, you will find the facts revolting.
Did you know China’s economic power is the result of sending innocent people who have committed no crimes but do not follow the Party’s ideologies, to forced labour camps to serve as a large scale force of free slave labour? It is estimated that more than one crore people work in thousands of forced labour camps across China. This includes a big majority of 'political' prisoners. China tops the world with more than 2,300 executions per year. Remember, every time you buy a product 'Made in China,' you are funding and empowering a brutal regime.
A lot of Chinese goods available in the Indian market are made by prisoners under appalling conditions in what the Chinese call ‘laogai’ or labour camps. They are deprived of sleep and have to slog away without food or breaks with their hands bleeding. The shocker is that they are killed on demand for their organs that are matched and sold to the highest bidder. It is a billion dollar industry supported by the state government. The victims are mostly Falun Dafa practitioners who practice an exercise and meditation practice that promotes good health with an emphasis on improving one’s moral character
Last year during Diwali there was a public service campaign calling for Boycotting Chinese goods. It is ironical that a popular Chinese mobile phone maker sold a record one million smart phones in India in 18 days during the Diwali festive season, despite calls for boycott of Chinese goods in the country.
We all know that in today’s world since a mobile phone is an extension of oneself, one is totally handicapped without a phone. But ignoring the sordid details of what goes on behind the making of the Made in China product would be as Gandhiji said “An evil system never deserves such allegiance. Allegiance to it means partaking of the evil. A good person will resist an evil system with his or her soul.”
70 million people practicing Falun Dafa, a peaceful spiritual practice with exercise and meditation became the soft target and are being killed on demand to supply an ongoing illegal organ transplant industry. The Chinese government ex-chief Jiang Zemin not being able to come to terms with the popularity of Falun Dafa introduced by Master Li Hongzhi in 1992 with 70 million Chinese people practicing it banned it on 20 July 1999. Since then for 18 years Falun Dafa practitioners are systematically imprisoned, tortured and killed for their organs. Their bodies are often cremated so that there is no evidence left. (Read more at www.faluninfo.net)
Chinese doctors and hospital workers admitted in recorded phone calls from undercover investigators that they have live organs from healthy Falun Dafa practitioners in prisons, available for sale.
When all over the world, patients have to wait for years for organ transplants, in China you can get it in a week’s time. Hospital web sites in China till recently advertised short waiting times for organ transplants. Due to the increase of available organs for sale in China, many foreigners travel there for transplantation. 10,000 organs are transplanted in China every year, even though China has no effective national organ donation system.
I would least like to put you in a dilemma where you can’t renege on your contracts which would cast a slur on your professionalism and integrity and neither can the Company summarily terminate the contract and suffer huge losses. What I think could be a benevolent solution is for you to make amends by making more people aware of these crimes against humanity. You can also at an opportune moment talk to the corporate decision makers or people who matter in the Chinese government to put an end to the persecution. Please do not misconstrue this as getting political. It is a moral issue- a human rights issue.
I respect your integrity and your exemplary sense of ethics, at the core of your being and it is demonstrated often when you have stood up for social causes and exposed many of society’s ills. A case in point is Aamir Khan’s ‘Satyamev Jayate’ TV serial.
For your kind information Falun Dafa was introduced in India in the year 2000. It was officially registered in 2004 and since then the exercise and meditation practice has been introduced in schools and colleges across the length and breadth of India. Falun Dafa was well received by the Police academies in Delhi and Hyderabad. Falun Dafa adherents were invited by several large organizations to introduce it to their senior executives and interestingly Jail superintends too have requested to introduce the exercise and meditation practice to inmates.
It will be of special interest to you that in the Mumbai film industry there are many ‘behind the scene’ artistes such as hair stylists, make-up artists, Talent search agencies, photographers who have found strength in Falun Dafa to overcome the stress of the glitz and glamour world.
Thank you for your patience and I look forward to some positive action from you.
This is a letter by Dr. Kafeel Khan, whose sole "crime" was trying to prevent deaths from deprivation of oxygen. He was arrested and has now spent 8 months in jail without bail for little reason more than the state needing a scapegoat for its own failures.
8MS, IN JAIL WITHOUT BAIL
AM I REALLY GUILTY?
I cherished each moment. Every scene is still alive like it is happening right now in front of my eyes, even after 8 months of unbearable torture, humiliation behind the bars. Sometime I asked myself am I really guilty? And the answer pop out from the core of my heart
No, no - A Big NO.
The moment I got that WhatsApp message on that 10th August 17 fateful night, I did everything a doctor, a father, a responsible CITIZEN OF INDIA would/should do. I tried to save each and every life who was in danger due to sudden stoppage of liquid oxygen. I did my level best to save those innocent kids who were dying because of lack of oxygen.
I frantically called everyone, I begged, I talked, I ran, I drove, I ordered, I yelled, I screamed, I consoled, I counselled, I spent, I borrowed, I cried I did all what is humanly possible.
I called my Head of the Department, my colleagues, Principal BRD, Acting Principal BRD, DM GKP, AD Health GKP, CMS/SIC GKP, CMS/SIC BRD MC informed them about the grave situation arising due to sudden stoppage of liquid oxygen and how kids life are in danger due to lack of oxygen supply. [I have all the call records]
I begged gas suppliers MODI GAS, BALA JI, Imperial GAS, Mayur Gas Agency, All the hospitals around BRD medical college afterr arranging their contact No - for jumbo cylinders to save hundreds of life of innocent kids.
I paid them cash and assured them will pay rest on delivery. [We arranged 250 cylinders/day until liquid oxygen tank arrived. One jumbo cylinder cost 216/- Rs]
I ran from one Qubical to another, from ward 100 to ward 12 to Emergency Ward. From point of oxygen supply to point of delivery to make sure uninterrupted oxygen delivery.
I drove to get cylinder from nearby Hospitals in my car. When I realized that was not sufficient I drove to SSB and met its DIG and explained him the unprecedented situation. Their response was very quick and supporting. They arranged big truck and group of soldiers to carry supply cylinders from BRD to Gas Agency, filled it, brought to BRD and ran again to refill. They worked for continuous 48 hours.
Their spirit boost ours. I salute SSB and very thankful for their help.
I spoke to my junior/senior doctors, I ordered my staff. Don't get panic, don't be disheartened, do not get angry with agitated parents, do not take brake - we had to work as a team to treat efficiently to save every life.
I consoled grieving parents who had lost their kids, I counselled those agitated parents who were getting angry after losing their kids. There was so much chaos. I explained to them liquid O2 is finished, but we are trying to make it with jumbo oxygen cylinders.
I yelled/screamed to everyone to focus on savings lives. I cried. Actually everyone in the team cried to see the havoc created by the Administrative failure to pay the dues to the liquid oxygen suppliers - resulting in such a grave situation.
We did not stop trying until liquid oxygen tank arrived around 1:30 am on 13-08-2017.
But my life turned upside down when CM Yogiji Maharaj arrived next morning on 13-08-17. He asked – so you are Dr Kafeel? You arranged cylinders?
I was like – yes sir.
He got angry – so you think by arranging cylinders, you became hero, I will see it.
Yogiji was angry because – how this incident came into the media. I swear to my Allah, I did not inform any media person that night. They were already there that night itself.
Then police started coming to our home – hounding, threatening, torturing my family. People warned they would kill me in an encounter. My family, my mother, my wife, my kids were so scared that I do not have words.
I surrendered to save my family from the humiliation, misery – thinking when I have not done anything wrong, I should get justice.
But numbers of days, weeks and months passed – August, 2017 to April, 2018. Holi came, Dussehra came, Christmas gone, New Year came, Diwali came – every date – Tareekh Par Tareekh (date after dates) hoping will get bail. Then we realised that judiciary is also working under pressure. (Even they acknowledged the same)
Sleeping on floor with more than 150 prisoners in a cramped barrack with millions of mosquito at night and thousands of flies in the day. Trying to swallow food to live, bath half naked in the field and sit in a toilet with broken door. Waiting for Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday to meet my family.
Life is hell, miserable not only for me but for my whole family. They had to run from one pillar to another – from police station to court, from Gorakhpur to Allahabad – in hope of justice. But all in vain.
My daughter whose first bithday I could not celebrate is now 1 year 7 months old. As a pediatrician, it is very painful, disheartening not to see his child to grow. As a pediatrician, I used to taught parents importance of milestones and myself do not know when my daughter started walking, speaking and running.
So now again that question haunts me – am I really guilty? No, no – NO.
I was on leave on 10th August 2017. (It was sanctioned by my HoD). Still, I rushed to do my duties – is that wrong?
They made me head of the department, vice chancellor of BRD, prabhari (in-charge) of 100-bed acute encephalitis syndrome (AEH) ward. I am a junior most doctor and joined only on 08-08-2016 as a permanent employee. I was working as nodal officer with NRHM and lecturer pediatrics. My whole work is to teach students, treat kids. I was nowhere involved with purchase/tender/order/maintenance/supply/payment of liquid oxygen/jumbo cylinders.
If Pushpa Sales (the official supplier) stopped liquid oxygen supply, how am I responsible for that? Even non medico could tell doctors’ work is to treat, not to buy oxygen.
The guilty are DM Gorakhpur, DGME (director general of medical education), principal secretary health education for not taking any action against 14 reminders sent by Pushpa Sales for its Rs 68 lakh dues.
It was a total administrative failure at higher level, they did not realise the gravity and just to save themselves, they made us scapegoat and put us behind the bars so that truth will remain inside Gorakhpur jail.
When Manish Bhandari (director of Pushpa Sales) got bail, we same same light that may be now we would also get justice and come out to live with my family and to serve again.
But No – we are still waiting.
Supreme Court says – bail is the right, prison is exception. This is a classical example of miscarriage of justice.
I hope time would come and I would be free with my family and my daughter. Truth will prevail. Justice would be served.
A helpless, broken heart father, husband, brother, son and friend