Resolution on Agrarian and other Rural Struggles

to settle their demands. We must make sure that AIKM emerges as a popular platform of peasant resistance backed by organized pockets or belts of sustained and powerful peasant movement.

17. The agrarian crisis and growing trends of corporatization
and mechanization of agriculture have meant a decline in agricultural employment. The first decade of the 21st century has seen employment in agriculture decline annually by 0.13%. The decline has been more pronounced in the second half of the decade: 1.63%. Thanks to the relative expansion of the non-farm rural economy, overall rural employment has however grown in this same period (2004-05/2009-10) by 2.8% per annum. The changing pattern is reflected in the composition of rural NDP (where the share of agriculture has dropped steadily and that of the non-farm sector has increased from 28% in 1970-71 to 62% in 2004-05) and also in the structure of rural employment (employment in non-farm activities increased from 28.51 million or 15% in 1972-73 to 107.51 million or 32% in 2009-10). The key non-farm rural sectors are trade, construction, transport and financial services and the semi- or para-government agencies in healthcare, education and other social sectors.

18. But the non-farm rural economy is still in no position to absorb the growing rural workforce leading to increases in unemployment and out-migration. Activities allied with agriculture like fisheries, dairy, poultry, horticulture, floriculture etc. are also in crisis, and small entrepreneurs are forced to compete in an unequal battle for survival with big corporate players. While focusing on agricultural labourers, increasing attention must also be paid to the task of organizing non-agricultural rural labourers and employees around their immediate demands. A good beginning has been made in the rural construction and sand extraction sector (in Bihar), among workers of rice mills (in Karnataka) and cold-storage workers (West Bengal), and among women workers in social sectors like ASHA, Anganwadi and mid-day meal schemes in several states.

19. Wages of agricultural labourers continue to be very low in most parts of the country and given the relentless rise in prices of all basic goods and services, there has been little growth, if not a steady erosion, in the real wages or the purchasing power of agricultural labourers. In most states, wages also continue to lag behind the officially stipulated minimum wages. Gender disparity in agricultural wages remains a bitter reality with wages received by women varying from 90% to even 50% of that of their male counterparts, even as agricultural wage-labour becomes increasingly feminized in many regions with out-migration of men. The National Commission for Enterprises in the Unorganised Sector (NCEUS) has shown that more than 95% of female agricultural wage workers received wages lower than the minimum wage (NCEUS 2007).

20. Wage struggle of agricultural labourers therefore remains crucially important, but such struggles still remain highly localized and spontaneous. The first ever all-India agricultural labour strike called by AIALA on 7 July 2010 evoked quite an enthusiastic response. The struggle for jobs, better wages and for improvement in living conditions and social security must be taken up more regularly and on a bigger scale.

21. The UPA government had introduced MGNREGA as the answer to rural poverty and unemployment. A study done by the NSSO for the period July 2009-June 2010 (NSSO 66th Round) shows that only 24% of rural households got any employment under MGNREGA (as low as 4% in Maharashtra, 5% in Punjab and Haryana, 8% in Karnataka, 10% in Bihar, 11% in Kerala and 16% in UP and Jharkhand) and the average persondays of employment for these households during this period is only 37 (17 for West Bengal, 23 for Jharkhand, 24 for Bihar and 31 for UP). The actual wages have been found to be almost uniformly lower than the notified wages, payment has been delayed as a rule and unemployment allowance has been utterly negligible, even though 193 out of every 1000 households having job cards claimed to have got no employment (the figure is 344 for Bihar). The same study also found that only 347 out of every 1000 rural households had job cards (the figure for Bihar is as low as 172 even though the official BPL percentage for Bihar is as high as 55.3).