Amid loud sloganeering of, "Modi Hosh mein aao, Kisan-Mazdoor se mat takrao," a massive, joint convention of workers' and farmers' unions was held on Thursday, 24 August at Talkatora Stadium in Delhi. Apart from criticising the government's alleged "inaction" since the three controversial farm laws were withdrawn, farm and union leaders have demanded guarantee of MSP and loan waivers, ahead of the Lok Sabha elections next year.
The convention was held at the call of the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions/Federations/Associations and Samyukta Kisan Morcha. Farmers and union workers flocked in, visibly charged and agitated, carrying the flags of their respective farmers' groups and unions.
In a packed stadium, full of men and women farmers and workers, the various farm and union leaders addressed the crowd, focusing on not just their immediate demands like guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP), loan waivers, fixing discrepancies in the pension schemes, but also accused the government of having a 'pro-corporate, pro-industrialist' attitude towards the agricultural sector.
It's easy to recognise a pro-people's government, you look at the situation of the farmers and the PSUs, hospitals and schools. Everything is worsening and being privatised.Joginder Singh Ugrahan, Bharatiya Kisan Union (Ugrahan) chief.
Ugrahan continued stating that, "They have made huge promises. What do they think for us, for workers? For farmers, no law has been made for us to guarantee MSP. For workers, the government is making laws stating that they should work for 12 hours and they cannot agitate."
Among their most important demands the need for a National Minimum Wage of Rs. 26,000/ per month for the workers, convening the Indian Labour Conference regularly and withdrawing the labour codes.
The convention also demanded the government to control price rise, remove GST on the essential items like food, medicines, agro-inputs and machinery and reduce substantially central excise duty on petroleum products and cooking gas.
"Farmers Being Detained in Broad Daylight"
Several farm leaders also talked about how it has become difficult to mobilise farmers on the ground and protest for their demands. Several farm leaders at the stadium talked about how the police has attempted to dismantle their mobilisation in the past few days in areas of Sirsa and Jind in Haryana, and Punjab's Moga and Sangrur.
"Around 150 farmers who were going to Chandigarh have been detained by the police. They were marching to demand for compensation over losses due to irregular rainfall and floods, but the farmers were lathi-charged too," Rajeev Yadav, Jai Kisan Andolan's President told The Quint.
Yadav also remarked that after the three farm laws were withdrawn, the government had formed a committee which included the members who had worked on those three laws, hence, the farmers refused to take part in it.
This government told us that the cases that were filed against farmers would also be withdrawn but 20-25% cases still remain. They have only taken back the cases filed by the states, not the ones by the Centre. Even all the farmers who became 'shaheed' during the protests, their families have not been provided any compensation.Rajeev Yadav, Jai Kisan Andolan's President
Meanwhile, Ashok Dhawale, All India Kisan Sabha leader, made scathing remarks against the current political dispensation, asking for 'another independence' from the Centre.
"Today, the labourer and the farmer has come together. Today is also the birth anniversary of Shaheed Rajguru. We ask PM Modi for 'another independence' one which farmers and workers shall win. This government has targeted the marginalised: the Dalits, Bahujan and Adivasis repeatedly. And yet, somehow Hindus who make up around 80% of the population are the victims? " said Dhawale.
As he concluded, the stadium reverberated with the sound of "Modani sarkar hatao, desh bachao."
On the other hand, the farmers also brought up the Lakhimpur Kheri incident, demanding that all pending cases against farmers are withdrawn and to prosecute Ajay Mishra Teni who is MoS, home affairs. The farmers have stated that their next plan of action is nationwide protest on 3 October (Black day) as they call it.
Harbhajan Singh, general secretary of Hind Mazdoor Sabha (HMS) said, "This government is making laws that would deter people from protesting now. They are not able to control the inflation, are not providing us MSP policy. These are their "tanashahi ways."
He continued, "They used to say that if we come into power, we will provide 2 crore jobs to us, but what has happened? Now they are even criminalising strikes. They promised: water, electricity, compensation for the farmers who lost their lives. Now they have looked the other way and are only focused on the elections."
'Divisive Politics Seen in Nuh, Manipur Violence'
Dhawale, talking about the situation in the country said, "The government is destroying the democratic fabric and Constitution of the country. We see what is happening in Manipur, Haryana, with Bilkis Bano, our women wrestlers, and attack on Newsclick, every one is being attacked."
Amarjeet Kaur of All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) said, "Acche din ka waada kia tha, par awaam par burey din thop diye. Our girls and daughters have been violated in Manipur, we are raising our voice for them too."
Kaur also said, "If the common people, farmers and labourers can throw the British out of the country, then we can also remove others from their throne. Every facility in India is provided by the workers and farmers. Should all funds and resources go abroad to foreign entities or to our workers and farmers?"
Ugrahan also alleged, "We have to stand together, fight together and dialogue with the government. If not, 'hum akele-akele pitjayenge.' To win elections, there are riots in Manipur, Nuh, Haryana and elsewhere. We have to pay heed and give them an answer too."
After their first move on Lakhimpur Kheri protest, the farmers and union plan to organise 'Day and Night Mahapadav Struggle' in front of the Raj Bhawans in the capitals of all states from 26 to 28 November 2023. This would be followed by a massive united protest at the end of the year or beginning of next year.