The All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS), the Left leaning organisation that represents farmers, agricultural workers and peasants has said that millions are staring at unemployment due to the lockdown announced by the Central government as a measure to contain the community outbreak of noval coronavirus (COVID-19). AIKS demands urgent action to mitigate the suffering, Central assistance to all States to set up infrastructure and meet expenses to immediately contain the pandemic. The organisation also said that the unprecedented health, social and economic crisis should be dealt with in a comprehensive manner.
The organisation has demanded a package for the peasantry, agricultural workers, working class and all vulnerable sections. Their demand includes a monthly allowance of Rs 5,000, free seeds and subsidised agricultural inputs, free foodgrains and rations for the next six months that may be continued subject to reassessment of scenario. They also demand free medical check-up and treatment for COVID-19.
"Unemployment was already rampant, millions of migrant workers, contract workers, agricultural workers, domestic workers, workers in the informal sector and the peasantry are losing their livelihood. Travel, textile, construction, hotel, tourism, transport, retail trade and many sectors are seeing lay-offs too", Ashok Dawale, president, AIKS said.
According to AIKS, the peasants and agricultural workers, workers in the unorganised sectors are worst affected. The peasantry in many states also suffered huge losses due to unseasonal rains and agriculture has come to a standstill putting peasant families under the threat of indebtedness, pauperisation and starvation in addition to the health emergency. "Health-centric or steps specific to dealing with the pandemic have to be accompanied by steps to deal with the socio-economic crisis", the association said.
It wants the government to ensure speedy and effective testing of people with symptoms; provide masks, sanitisers and clean, hygienic treatment, isolation facilities for all affected through public investment apart from forcing the corporates to pay.
The association said the extreme distress among the peasantry was caused due to slowdown in marketing, price crash, wastage and spoilage of vegetables, fruits, flowers, milk, poultry and meat. "Lockdown has also led to a scenario where farm produce is not marketable. Industrial closure also adversely affects the peasantry. An assessment of losses with adequate compensation should be immediately announced and an interim assistance package has to be declared forthwith," it demanded.
The association also had a long list of demands which included waiver of all loans of the landless, agricultural workers, tenants, sharecroppers, small and middle peasantry and interest subvention for other sections.