Peasants, Protests

Why are Punjab’s Peasants on the Path of Protest? – Gurmukh Singh

This time in Punjab, especially in Malwa Pati, cotton crops have been destroyed. According to a survey, during the crop season in Narma Pati districts this year, 4.35 lakh hectares of cotton was planted in Malwa area in Punjab. In this, Bathinda had 1.4 Lakh hectares, Barnala had 9000 hectares, Faridkot had 13,000 hectares, Fazilka had 99,000 hectares, Mansa had 85,000 hectares,  Mukhtsar had 72,000 hectares, and Moga had 15,000 hectares of cotton planted.

Till now 70,000 hectares of cotton has been destroyed because of attacks of flies. Either the white flies have destroyed the rest of the cotton as well or there has been very little yield. Most of the cotton is diseased due to the attacks of the insects.

The main reason for the destruction of the crops is duplicate seeds. This was unearthed through two reports which revealed  the scandal of gunda taxbeing taken on behalf of the Agriculture Minister of Punjab.  However, due to the “orbit incident” the scandal wasn’t talked about much in Punjab’s newspapers. Then a seed company was caught giving the Agriculture Minister, Tota Singh, 50 lakh rupees out of the seed profits but this news was also stifled. The other reason is fake insecticides. These insecticides are so fake that farmers were given only dyed water. All these insecticide companies were also found to be frauds during raids and investigations. No offices of these companies were found.  The insecticides that are released into the market must be suggested by the universities. The Director of the Agriculture Department passes them, but because of joint understanding of the Agriculture minister, the Director, and the Vice-chancellor of the university, these fake insecticides, which did not affect the white flies, were released to the market. The third reason lies in the B.T. Cotton seeds. Our organization had already been saying that regular insecticides would have no effect on the B.T. Cotton in the future, because B.T. Cotton is protected against bollworms, but eventually the insects have become immune, and now even the regular insecticides cannot kill them.

The Central Government gave Rs. 3500 crores of subsides for crop diversification from paddy and wheat. However, but the Agriculture Minister and the Badals took all the money of the subsidies and it never reached the peasants.

This occurrence is so tragic that peasants are committing suicide. Within 60 days,45 peasants took their lives. Labourers have not been left untouched by this incident. People are selling their farming tools and animals to make a living. The government is making fools out of the peasants by giving them 8000 rupees per acre of compensation; the labourers are not getting any compensation. One acre requires at least 18,000 rupees to cover its expenses. The people who have taken land on lease need 42,000 rupees to cover their expenses, because this crop lasts for eight months. The worst condition is for the smaller peasants because they are already under the debt of property owners, and their crops have been ruined; most of the suicides are also from among these peasants.

The Punjab government has only interrogated the Director of the  Dept. of Agriculture uptil now, while the Agriculture minister and the university are not being investigated. The government is avoiding a CBI investigation, because Badal could be caught in this investigation.

 Eight organizations in Punjab  have started a struggle against this. These organizations include Kirti Kisan Union (KKU), Bhartiya Kisan Union (Bhakoda Group), Bhartiya Kisan Union (Ekta Ugrahan), Jamhuri Kisan Union, Punjab Kisan Union, Bhartiya Kisan Union (Krantikari), and  two Sangharsh Committees.In the most affected  areas, especially in Bathinda, the peasants held a protest for 15 days straight, in which 15 to 20 thousand people from the area were involved. Then the peasants held a  Rail Roko in protest. In Punjab, Delhi-Amritsar, Dehli-Bathinda, Mansa-Bathinda, Frozpur-Ludhiana, Dhuri-Ambala, railway lines were blocked and thousands of peasants were involved in this struggle. Thousands of peasants have also been arrested. In this protest, the Pendu Mazdoor Union, and the Zameen Prapti Sangarsh Committee, are also supporting the peasants.

After rail roko, peasant organizations were invited for discussion with the Chief Minister but the Govt. did not accept the demands of peasants. Agitating peasant organizations have called for Dharna and Gherao of Ministers’ houses to press their demands