The Kulak, the cancer and the kisan
`Kam-red' or `less red' (a `full-red' friend once jokingly told me as he always suspected my Communist credentials) kisans have come camping at Boat Club all the way from western-UP.
The government is not listening to them. Their leader, Mahendra Singh Tikait, needs the support of all you JNUites.
His emotional appeal had thrown me off balance. Ten years ago, I was younger and always ready for action. At the Boat Club, thousands of farmers, as part of their agitation, were defecating at Rajpath, urinating in the open and standing in front of passing vehicles and pedestrians alike.
The `poverty' of agitating kisans was self-explanatory. The venue resembled Suraj Kund which during a mela, is packed with cars. The kisans had come in hundreds of cars, jeeps, buses and tractors. `Can India's poor really afford such vehicles?' I wondered? Driven by an urge to gauge their `poverty', I spoke to a number of them. `This car belongs to masterji,' revealed a kisan. `Masterji owns seventy acres of land, a tractor, a bus, a tube-well and he has a rifle and revolver as well.'
`What about you?' I asked. `I came in my own tractor. I, too, can buy a Maruti. I have more land than masterji, maybe we'll get one during my son's marriage,' he said.
`Who have come in these buses?' I asked again. `The Dalits they work in our fields. They are brought to each rally Chaudhari organises,' he told me. I didn t ask whether Dalits joined the rallies willingly or were coerced into doing so.
Their demands? Free electricity, more subsidised fertilisers, a higher subsidy on tractors, writing off the loans already taken, remunerative prices for products and so on.
We learnt at the dharna that most of the Kulaks masquerading as kisans, owned huge acres and were stinking rich. I am sorry, these Kulaks own more land than the land ceiling act allows and that is reason enough to put them behind bars, I told my red friend. After that encounter with the kisans, I became a kisan-watcher. Each time my friends would visit western UP, I would ask them two questions. Do these kisans ever pay minimum wages and what do they do with the surplus money they earn every season? Prompt came the reply: Never! And what about the surplus? The answer can prod even the dullest mind. The kisans can never earn enough money to buy cars and rifles if they pay their electricity bills, the real price of fertilisers and pesticide but yes, they can still live a dignified life, remarked a former activist friend of mine. Do they need cars and rifles? I asked. You see, very few of them use cars but they must own them. It is a matter of a status symbol. Even tractors are economically not viable. About half the tractors remain highly under-utilised. But they must all own them because they determine their status in society, said my friend.
`Have you ever attended the marriage of a Kulak s child in western UP?' asked my friend. A minimum of Rs 10 lakhs by the bride s side and about half of that by the groom s side is blown up in no time. Most of the motorcycles in the country are dowry-bikes. Many Kulak families, apart from a car, have two or three motorcycles, all part of dowry. Even tractors are demanded, and given, as dowry, my friend said in disgust. Does the automobile industry sell a large number of tractors, cars and motorcycles because of `demand' or because of social factors feudal egos for instance? Do state subsidies to the farming sector cater to a feudo-cultural ethos? I wondered. Out of Rs 5 lakhs earned by a Kulak, not more than five rupees turns into capital, added an economist friend of mine. Then why should the state so heavily subsidise the economic activity of the Kulaks who own land illegally, don t pay minimum wages to their labour and who produce third-grade grain?
`Remunerative prices' is one term the Kulaks can pronounce with ease. The logic is simple wheat is available at Rs 5 a kg on the open market but the Kulaks want Rs 10. Since the Kulaks define the grammar of electoral politics in the countryside, governments surrender and bargain at say, Rs 8 a kg.
I write these lines with great amount of anguish when I read VP Singh as saying: Farmers are the biggest losers as they are not getting the right price for their products, at the launch of his Kisan Morcha in Lucknow on November 5. Whose interest is he serving? Who buys tractors, who takes farm produce to mandis? The answer is clear, the ones who have surplus land, employ farm labour, produce surplus food grain, demand remunerative prices and are a great burden on the Indian economy.
The Kulaks, by definition, are unlawful elements, the fountainhead of obscurantism, the ones who commit atrocities on Dalits. They are the nation s headache. The State must discipline them by ushering in a new era of land-reforms, a genuine shock-treatment, lest this headache turns into a social cancer!