In the backdrop of severe agrarian distress due to continuous non-availability of Cauvery water, repeated failure of monsoons, complete neglect of agriculture by the state and central Governments, the anti-people demonetisation steps of Modi government which have triggered manifold increase in the distress, a public hearing was organised by AIARLA on January 9, 2017 at Kumbakonam. The public hearing was inaugurated by Com. S.Ilangovan Tanjore-Nagai district secretary of CPI(ML). Activist and rural workers from Tanjore, Pudukkottai, Nagppattinam and Cuddalore were present. Apart from the workers at ground level, R. Vidyasagar, State Campaign Committee member of AIPF, CPI(ML) Pudukottai district secretary Com. P. Asaithambi, AIARLA state Gen Sec Com. S. Janakiraman, Vice President Com. T. Kannaian, AICCTU state president Com. A S Kumar and others.
The speakers pointed out that agricultural and rural labour have been forced to become job-less and penny less. For the past 6 months NREGA wages have not been paid. According to one estimate the unpaid wages amount to 2000 crores! Workers in lacs have been frantically mobbing the bank branches, but to no avail. The bank officials are saying that their wages have not been deposited in the branches. Investigations reveal that in order to manage the fund crunch officials are getting oral orders from above to stop disbursement of NREGA wages. But at the same time, politically influential people are getting hefty amounts in new notes! On the one hand, there has been reverse migration from places like Tiruppur, on the other hand a frantic search of job has fuelled migration to places like Kerala. Workers are forced to accept still lower wages. In some cases, they return empty handed with more sufferings. PM Modi had asked the people to bear the sufferings temporarily for a period of only 50 days, but even after that sufferings continue.
People who joined the hearing shared that Tamil Nadu had now joined the infamous suicides clubs of Vidarbha and Karnataka. Heavily distressed peasants and farmers in the state are now taking the extreme step of suicide as they are left with withering crops and no money to run their daily life. Both the state and central govts continue their apathy towards farmers’ suicides. The ministers, who had gone for an assessment after being forced by people, insensitively refuted the reports of suicides saying it is not due to agrarian distress but rather due to old age and sickness. It shows the callous attitude of the govt and ruling party. Ironically, the AIADMK party demanding the Center to declare Jayalalithaa’s birth day as farmers’ day, while completely failing and betraying the farming community which voted that party to power.
In the face of such grave situation the public hearing demanded the following:
1. Declare TN drought hit state.
2. State must demand the Centre relief fund for disaster management.
3. Free distribution of 50 kg rice and food essentials along with 5 litres kerosene in subsidized price.
4. Waiver of all loans of peasants, farmers and rural workers including SH women groups.
5. Adequate job loss compensation to the rural labour including construction, beedi workers etc.
6. Provision of NREGA work round the year, with wage of Rs 500 per day to 2 person per family, enlarging the scheme to Town Panchayats.
7. Immediate settlement of unpaid wages to the tune of Rs 2000 + crore.
8. Disbursal of Rs One lakh to every rural family’s account.
9. Cancellation the GO declaring Aadhar Card compulsory.
10. Make food security act meaningful so that every rural poor family is protected with sufficient quantity of food items and essentials.
11. The state govt should compensate the suicide victims and shock death of peasants and farmers family with Rs 25 lakhs to every family.
A decision was also taken to launch a massive campaign throughout state among the rural poor in various forms from 25 to 31 January coinciding with the AIARLA’s all-India campaign. It was also decided that memorandums would be submitted to the CM, PM and President.
Protest day was observed in several districts of the state including Chennai, Tiruvallur, Vizhupuram, Salem, Namakkal, Coiambatore, Karur, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari.