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India: MAKAAM Stands with the Farmers and Extends Support to the Ongoing Farmers’ Movement | Dec 7, 2020

7 December 2020

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Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM)
MAKAAM Secretariat:
Gramya Resource Centre for Women, 12-13-440, Street No. 1, Tarnaka, Secunderabad 500 017 MAKAAM c/o SOPPECOM
16, Kale Park, Someshwarwadi, Pashan, Pune, Maharashtra 411008.
Phone: 8411994051.​ ​Email: ​mahilakisan.makaam[at]gmail.com​ Website: ​www.makaam.in

​07.12.2020 ​

Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch (MAKAAM) stands in solidarity with the protesting farmers among who are men and women from diverse social groups. We especially applaud the firm resolve of the women farmers, tenant farmers from across the SC and ST communities to actively participate in the protest in Delhi and in their own states. MAKAAM condemns the repressive tactics used by the central government to repress the vibrant farmer protest in Delhi and at all the borders coming into Delhi.

MAKAAM had expressed its concerns on the 3 farm acts and had earlier come out with a detailed statement that reflects our clear position on these legislations. As a platform working on women farmers issues, we believe that these Acts will adversely and disproportionately impact a majority of women farmers, who form the bulk of the small and marginal sections in the Indian agricultural sector as well as a majority of the women agricultural workers, who are dependent on the sector for their survival and livelihood. In a context where women farmers in India already face multiple pre-existing challenges in terms of lack of recognition as farmers, unequal rights over key resources such as land, water, forests etc, gendered access to support systems and services related to agricultural credit, inputs, subsidies, budgets and marketing their produce, the 3 latest legislations will subject them to a new set of vulnerabilities and livelihood threats.

While women cultivators will be adversely affected more directly, impacts would also be seen on women agricultural workers, whose wages are expected to become unstable in the event of price volatility in the market. These 3 legislations will potentially have adverse impacts on natural resources, food security base and the rich biodiversity of forest regions.

Moreover, these three Acts bypass and move away from addressing the critical issues faced by a large majority of the small and marginal farmers who are more acutely facing the agrarian distress and as consumers, whose food security is also potentially under threat. We feel that the ongoing farm protests offer an important context for policy makers and various farmers organisations to critically reexamine the macroeconomic paradigm of agriculture that continues to be centered around increasing productivity and farm returns, over reliance on high input, externally sourced chemical fertilisers, pesticides and seeds and the existence of either centralized markets or private traders for procurement and sale of produce. A longer-term view is called for that supports a chemical free ecologically sensitive food and nutrition centered agricultural paradigm rooted in local farmers’ collectives and membership based collectives and cooperatives over the current chemical intensive model that has benefitted only a few crops and few geographies and a few sections of the farmers. It is indeed significant that large sections of those who are part of the ongoing protests are small and marginal farmers, tenant farmers and landless agricultural workers, with women farmers from all the above categories participating in the protest in large numbers. We also believe apart from demanding for the 3 anti-farmer acts to be rolled back, it is equally important to use this historic opportunity to raise more structural issues related to deep asymmetries in land ownership in the rural economy and more particularly the issue of advancing rights over land and other resources for women farmers and other disadvantaged communities, who form the bulk of the rural farming community. In doing so, the current protests in various parts of the country will truly move towards a more organic process of widening their socio-political base to cement solidarities across various social groups and sustain their struggle in the long run.

We also firmly believe that rather than withdrawal, we believe that the need for state intervention in the farm sector is far more significant today than ever before. The rising agrarian distress has long standing impacts on women farmers as they end up carrying the burden of working on degraded lands, walking long distances to fetch water and fuelwood, diversifying their livelihood portfolio just so that survival is ensured.

We thereby appeal to the government to the following

1. Repeal the three farm laws with immediate effect

2. Bring in a separate law that guarantees remunerative prices for farmers for diverse crops and ensure all payments are made jointly to farmer households, against the current practice of only remunerating the landowners. This should be based as per the formula suggested by the Swaminathan Commission Report.

3. Direct its attention to supporting the small and marginal farmers who are in distress due to the pandemic by a) providing cash transfers and loan deferments and b) supplement those with expanding the MNREGA, providing seed and market support.

4. Bring in reforms in the APMCs that would ensure easy access to women farmers who trade at the local level. This could be on the lines of the initiatives taken by the government of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana to hand over procurement to women’s SHGs at the village level and also support direct marketing initiatives.

5. Ensure (a) incentivising decentralised procurement including procurement of coarse grains; (b) geographical diversification of procurement operations; (c) augmentation of adequate decentralised modern and scientific storage; (d) giving top priority to the movement of foodgrains and providing sufficient number of rakes for this purpose, including expanding the line capacity of railways to facilitate foodgrain movement from surplus to consuming regions.

6. The government rolls out a time-bound plan to ensure at least the mandated 30% representation of women farmers in the local market committees. ​For this, MAKAAM calls for a large-scale study on identifying and addressing systemic obstacles that women farmers’ s face in accessing various kinds of markets.

7. Create an enabling environment that promotes women’s FPOs by giving them higher equity grant and working capital at low interests; encourages it in procurement at the local level. This could be done by introducing a reasonable target of all women FPOs in the recently introduced operational guidelines of FPOs (July 2020). The government should also remove FPOs from the purview of the Acts brought in.

8. Universalize and expand PDS to include millets, pulses and oil that could be procured through decentralized procurement systems by guaranteeing remunerative prices. It would address the concerns of the procurement of farm produce as well as fulfill the goal of eliminating hunger. Women farmers often produce a diverse set of crops such as moong, urad, ragi and other millets which can find guaranteed markets if the PDS, MDMS and ICDS programmes are revised to include these foods.

9. Lastly and more importantly, measures must be taken by the Center and various State Governments to expand agricultural land access and ownership for women and disadvantaged sections engaged in the rural farming sector, apart from also ensuring secure tenurial rights over agricultural land as well as fair wages and dignified working conditions for workers engaged in agriculture and allied sectors.

Seema Kulkarni, Kavitha Kuruganti, Usha Seethalakshmi, Sejal Dand, Shilpa Vasavada, Nafisa Barot, Ashalatha, Rukmini Rao, Dr. Soma KP, Shubhada Deshmukh, Archana Singh, Anita Paul, Fatima Burnad, Rajim, Akole Tsuhah, Richa Audichiya, Bhanuja, Heera, Hiral Dave, Kavitha S, Roshan Rathod, Dr. Vaishali Patil, Varsha Ganguly, Seema Ravandale

Contact: Gargie Mangulkar, National Co-ordinator, MAKAAM e-mail: mahilakisan.makaam[at]gmail.com