S. Dorairaj

“Agricultural workers and farmers will launch a struggle against this policy”

PUDUCHERRY: The Bharatiya Khet Mazdoor Union (BKMU) has criticised the United Progressive Alliance government for “sowing the seeds of corporate landlordism” by promoting special economic zones.

General secretary Nagendra Nath Ojha told The Hindu here that the Special Economic Zone Act ran counter to the spirit of the movement of farmers and farm workers against the different forms of feudal system for several decades. Agricultural workers and farmers would launch a struggle against this policy, he said, and the peasants had already started protesting in different parts of the country.

The national conference of the BKMU, to be held in Bhuvaneswar from November 10 to 12 would also cover the issue.

Mr. Ojha made it clear that the BKMU was not opposed to industrial development which, he said, was essential for the country. But it should not come at the cost of farming. Acquiring fertile land for SEZs would result in a food crisis, besides affecting the livelihood of 70 per cent of the country’s population who depended on agriculture.

The SEZ Act, he argued, did not protect the livelihood of farmhands. Though it had a provision to compensate the loss of land, there was no proper policy to ensure rehabilitation of farm workers, so the union urged the Centre to bring in an amendment.

Successive governments at the Centre for the past 30 years had been reluctant to bring forward a comprehensive legislation to provide the farm workers with social security because of the pressure from landlords, Mr.Ojha said. He asked the UPA government to introduce during the next session of Parliament the Bill that had been pending with the Labour Department.

Justifying the demand for a separate legislation for the agricultural workers, he said their number had increased to 10 crores from two crores in 1952. The current situation also indicated that the number of cultivators had taken a steady nosedive for the past several years, as they had also “joined the ranks of farm workers, owing to pauperisation.”

The situation on the farm front showed that the UPA government, just as the previous National Democratic Alliance government, had been adopting a policy that had resulted in a jobless economic growth, Mr. Ojha said.