MP Adivasis join struggle against anti-farmer farm acts, launch protests from Barwani

The protesters demanded that the central government guarantee remunerative prices for farmers by making MSP a legal right for all farmers - with and without land titles, landless labourers, etc.

Thousands of Adivasis of Jagrit Adivasi Dalit Sangathan gathered today in Barwani, Madhya Pradesh joining the country-wide movement against the central government’s new farm laws and the proposed Electricity (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

Adivasi farmers and labourers strongly opposed the farm acts, saying instead of guaranteeing remunerative prices for their produce, the central government has worsened the crisis of debt-ridden small and marginal farmers. Labeling the passage of the laws as a means to push farmers into the hands of international conglomerates and big businesses, protesting Adivasis asserted that they would fight tooth and nail to resist attempts of the same, raising slogans of, ‘Kheti karo pet ke liye, mat karo seth ke liye!’ (We will farm for our needs, not the needs of big businesses!)

The protesters demanded that the central government guarantee remunerative prices for farmers by making MSP a legal right for all farmers – with and without land titles, landless labourers, etc. They also pointed out that mandis were essential since they were originally established to prevent farmers from being exploited by traders, and that despite the National Farmers Commission’s recommendations to the state to establish at least 3850 mandis, currently, there were merely 567 mandis in the state. Thus, instead of extending the protection of mandis to those with and without land titles, landless labourers alike, the government has done away with all safeguards in the farmers’ interests by the passage of these laws.

Electricity, Land, and Education

In line with protesting farmers of the nation, Adivasi men and women, farmers and labourers alike jointly opposed the move to hand over electricity distribution companies to private entities and thus eliminating subsidies for the working population of the country. This move, they said, would allow private corporations to extort large sums of money for providing electricity to people.

Adivasis of Barwani also warned the state government against the proposed privatization of forests in Madhya Pradesh. According to a draft proposal of the government, the State proposes to hand over at least 40% of forests to private companies, which would amount to approximately 37450 sq. km of forests. According to the Adivasis, it would be a direct violation of the rights of the Gram Sabha over forests and its resources as guaranteed by the Panchayati Raj (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 and the Forest Rights Act, 2006. Jal, Jangal, Jameen – Land, Forests, and Water are inalienable rights of the Gram Sabha and Adivasis, and any attempts to dispossess and deprive Adivasis of their constitutional rights would not be allowed at any cost.

Related Read- Turning back the clock: How the state is reversing gains made by traditional forest-dwelling communities

Protesting women and men also said, not only is our future affected by the passage of these laws, but the future of our children is also being blighted by the closure of schools and online education. Recently, the MP government announced that schools would remain closed till the 31st of March. The Adivasis pointed out that the mode of online education is a farce in a situation where smartphones, data packs, access to electricity, and network are not available to children. They also added that the imposition of online education then deprives them of their right to education. Protestors also pointed out that there were currently 92,000 vacancies for teachers in the state and demanded that the government must fill vacant posts and immediately open schools.

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