Bharat Bandh on September 27 is the start of Mission Defeat BJP: Amarjeet Kaur

A M Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on September 27, 2021

Amarjeet Kaur, General Secretary, AITUC

The AITUC General Secretary says workers and peasants are now united in a prolonged political agitation against the Government

Central Trade Unions (CTUs) will actively aid the Bharat Bandh called by the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) on September 27. All India Trade Union Congress (AITUC) general secretary Amarjeet Kaur told BusinessLine that workers and peasants are now united in a prolonged political agitation against the Government which has not just ignored their protest against farm laws and labour codes but has passed the Essential Defence Services Act that prohibits strikes and announced reform measures such as Asset Monetisation Pipeline without consulting the workers. Kaur said the political articulation of the agitation on the ground would be on the upcoming Assembly elections in the northern States of Punjab, Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Excerpts from an interview:

What is the relevance of this Bandh?

It signifies the intensity of the peasant-worker agitation after the Government has brazened out the months-long farmers’ movement against the three farm laws and the labour codes and has further enhanced the burden on common people by passing the Essential Defence Services Act and the National Monetisation Pipeline. The struggle has been stepped up. The SKM held a Kisan Parliament during the Monsoon Session of Parliament and a Mahapanchayat in Muzaffarnagar. Mission Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand has been announced to defeat the BJP in these States. The BJP has to be defeated to save the common people. Almost a year back on November 26, 2020, the SKM supported our call for a Bharat Bandh. Now, SKM has given a call for Bharat Bandh on September 27. We will support this call as the workers, like peasants, are under attack. We will join the campaign against BJP in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.

So it is no longer just a farm movement but a political step?

A: It is clearly a political step. When we say that we support Mission Uttar Pradesh and Mission Uttarakhand, it means that we want the people to throw the BJP out of power to save India. Earlier, we used to demand change in policies. Now the situation is so serious that we want this Government to be changed to save the country. We will hold a ‘National Convention of Workers’ at Delhi against the anti-national, anti-people policies of the Centre with a focus on the NMP soon and decide the future course of action. We have also started preparations for multiple days of strike.

The RSS-supported BMS says that your demands are not related to any TU movement.

BMS was part of the joint platform of trade unions till 2015. They want us to concentrate on wage and other negotiation issues. Their understanding is faulty. Challenging a Government's policies itself is politics. It is working class politics. We have inherited this politics from our national movement. Trade Unions participated in every major step of the freedom struggle. BMS does not belong to this heritage. All other unions approve and are proud of this history of the Indian trade union movement.

Trade Unions have been demanding procurement with procurement price, while farmers want legalised MSP. Isn't there a conflict in this?

There's no conflict in this. Farmers' understanding is that once they pursue the MSP, procurement will also take place through APMCs. Our stand is that the Government does not procure even with legalised MSP. Without procurement, MSP will have no meaning and ultimately, the procurement will go to the private sector. Trade Unions have a style of functioning that deals with discussions on wages, bonus etc. We also talk about the mechanism of implementing the result of a dialogue with management or the government. We are putting a scientific approach from our understanding that this government will not do what they say. The demand for procurement and procurement price is seeking a scientific mechanism to ensure better remuneration for the farmers' products.

You have also been advocating cooperative production as an alternative. How practical will this alternative be given the socio-economic status of the country?

It would benefit the small and medium farmers to pool in their resources. They can reduce input costs of fertilisers, seeds, pesticides and machines. It will also reduce their debt burden as cooperative societies will be in a better position to manage debts. It will also help them in diversifying crops and add value to their products. There’s a misconception that cooperatives will be under the control of big farmers. Cooperatives will be an alternative to the big corporations. Farmers have been targeting big corporations during their protests. The farm laws are aimed to help these corporations. Very rich farmers are very few. Vast majority is poor and the rest of them are marginal and middle-level farmers. The Prime Minister interpreted this movement as one led by rich farmers. It is wrong. These so-called rich farmers are also debt ridden. Every section of farmers and agriculture workers are united in this struggle. Every section of farmers and agriculture workers will benefit from cooperatives. Co-operative farming is the future for their sustenance.

Published on September 26, 2021

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