Farm unions under the Samyukt Kisan Morcha banner and 10 Central trade unions have agreed to carry out a joint campaign, combining their demands and planning common actions.
The decision was taken at a meeting of representatives from both sides on Monday evening, but will need to be ratified by the wider SKM at its general body meeting on Tuesday.
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The SKM will also discuss the possibility of jointly campaigning against the BJP in the upcoming Assembly elections. Some members have already chalked out such plans, but others are not too keen.
“The meeting decided to undertake a joint campaign, with five common demands: three demands from the farmers’ side — repeal of the farm reform laws, withdrawal of Electricity Bill and legal guarantee for MSP — and two demands from the workers’ side — to withdraw the labour codes and stop privatisation,” said All India Kisan Sabha treasurer Krishnaprasad, who attended the meeting. “This is a politically significant meeting at this juncture. Even those [the farm unions] who only joined the agitation on the farm laws are recognising that this is part of a wider reform package, as the government is openly saying. So we must also fight it together,” he added.
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All-India Trade Union Congress general secretary Amarjeet Kaur said that farmers and workers’ representatives discussed coming out with a joint statement and programme, which would be announced after the farmers’ meeting on Tuesday. She said the trade unions suggested certain programmes, including observing March 15 as “anti-privatisation day”. The martyrdom day of Bharat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru on March 23 could also be observed jointly, she said.
“It was a cordial meeting. The farmers’ unions expressed their appreciation for the support of Central trade unions, and we told them that we value their agitation highly. It has been a big boost for all the forces or people who have faced discrimination or oppression from the present regime,” she said.
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Centre of Indian Trade Unions secretary A.R. Sindhu noted that while some of the Left-aligned farmers’ groups had previously joined hands with the workers, this was the first time that politically non-aligned Punjab farm unions, with their financial and manpower resources, would come on board a joint platform.
The meeting was attended by representatives of Bharatiya Kisan Union-Rajewal and BKU-Ekta Ugrahan, two of the most prominent Punjab groups.
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The BKU’s Balbir Singh Rajewal is also likely to join in election campaigning against the BJP in Kerala, according to a farm leader who did not wish to be named. Gurnam Singh Chaduni, who heads another faction of the BKU in Haryana and is known to be close to the Aam Aadmi Party, is planning to campaign in Bengal, the leader said.
“We will not ask people to vote for this party or that. We will simply ask them not to vote for the BJP, because it has revealed itself to be an anti-farmer party, and the farmers must teach them a lesson at the polls,” said another farm leader, from Punjab. “That is the next step of our agitation.”
However, another farm leader, who also did not wish to be named, said that his union had no plans for this kind of political mobilisation. “Individual people may have some ideas, but it is not a decision until the SKM general body has discussed it. We will see if the SKM as a whole approves this kind of electoral campaigning at [Tuesday’s] meeting,” he said.