Comrades and Fellow- Patriots,
We are meeting here to-day under the shadow of the most terrible crisis in our national history. One shudders to recall what has happened in our country since the fateful 9th August when the entire National leadership was arbitrarily and provocatively arrested and put in prison.
Bureaucratic repression provoked acts of sabotage and anarchy by misguided patriots and these acts were followed by more ruthless repression. They moved round in a vicious circle one after the other till patriotism was taken advantage of by the sneaking fifth columnists of the Japanese militarists who had so long lain low, awaiting an opportunity for their nefarious task. The crisis deepened and our ancient nation was threatened with annihilation.
Fascist Japan then bombed Calcutta in December last year. By this means the aggressor sought to convert Calcutta into Rangoon and capture India, or at least the eastern provinces, as he captured Burma. The people however stood the test and defied the enemy. India was saved for the time being.
The Crisis Deepens
But the die-hard bureaucrat would not learn his lesson from history. The anti-fascist war on a world scale, the heroic resistance by the Russian and Chinese people, the threat to India of an imminent invasion—nothing could bring him to his senses. He continued his mad policy of shutting off the people from their leaders— Gandhiji and others—instead of setting them at liberty so that they might mobilize the people and strengthen the nation’s resistance to fascism.
The leaders, in spite of their forced helplessness, could not remain mere idle spectators of the national calamity. Gandhiji started his three-week fast to point to the nation the way to its liberation—the way to National Unity and a National Government.
Gandhiji’s release was demanded by the whole nation but the people had not yet built up that unity and strength which could have forced the Government to release Gandhiji. This showed how perilously weak we are in our national life and how callous is the bureaucracy to our national defense.
The crisis has gone still deeper owing to the food crisis which stalks the land.
Peoples’ food is the most direct:, immediate and universal question which affects our national life. Food shortage may lead, indeed it has already led, to food famine and food riots and to the capricious rise and fall of prices of food and essential commodities. And who benefits thereby but the fifth column and the Jap aggressor? This creates a grave situation.
Gandhiji Against Sabotage
In the background of our national defence, ignoring, which means threatening our nation with extinction under fascist, heels, the food problem is the most burning problem which faces us to-day. The Kisan Sabha can and must play a vital part in solving it, thus helping the solution of the national crisis.
The crisis, however, does not stand today where it began. It is true thousands and thousands of patriotic kisans were at first swept, off their feet when the crisis made its appearance. But the untiring activity of the Kisan Sabha workers and others patriots have largely succeeded in bringing them back to their proper place. Sabotage activity has been reduced to negligible proportions. The policy of the Kisan Sabha as explained by. the Central Kisan Council in its Bombay session (September 19-12) finds support in Gandhiji’s letters to the Viceroy which have gone a long way in clarifying the genuinely patriotic and anti-sabotage policy of the National Congress. The fifth column is getting more, and more isolated politically.
The shock which, misled the Kisans in many parts of the country, has been overcome in a large measure. The Kisans are coming back to their fold and the Kisan Sabha is being rebuilt on its own political line which condemns sabotage and upholds the policy of national unity. It has been struggling and has gained considerable ground in its struggle as one of the main organized forces in the country which seek to build National Unity for the solution of the National Crisis.
Kisan Sabha’s Progress
It was no easy time for the Kisan Sabha in which it found itself during the National Crisis. It was no mean achievement for Kisan Sabha to steer through the crisis and gain in strength. In the first year the Sabha has grown in might and dimension.
This year its total membership has gone up to nearly three lakhs. More Kisan Sabha Provinces have been functioning than in the Past year. The provinces and states are more unified in the All India Kisan Sabha than they were ever before. Their activities are a proof of greater energy and better organizations.
But our achievements, however remarkable, must not be a source of self-complacency to us. We have gained something but not everything; we are a long way off from our goal. The Kisan Sabha at its Bihta session set slogans like National resistance, National Government and grow- more food which are not yet realized. Our tasks lie ahead of us and we must solve the National Crisis.
Now, Comrades, if the future is viewed in the light of the task that are before us, can you imagine what a great role a strongly rebuilt Kisan Sabha can play in conjunction with other patriotic organizations? It can win the demands of the millions of starving Kisans and line them up for a mighty and widespread grow-more-food campaign. Thus the Kisan Sabha can become a powerful force for solving the food crisis. For building National Unity and for winning the National demand- a National Government for National Defence.
Bihta Gives Correct Lead
The Bihta session(May 1942) of the All- India Kisan Sabha gave a very correct political lead to the Indian Kisans when it demanded the immediate establishment of a National Government and exhorted “all National organizations including the congress, the Muslim League and the A.I.T.U.C to achieve the broadest unity on the basis of these (specified previously) demands and work jointly for their speedy realization.” Thus the Sabha put forward a positive programme for National Unity, National Government and National Defence in alliance with the United Nations. This happened over 10 months ago- long before the National Crisis was precipitated.
The Bombay session of the Central Kisan Council (September 19-12) further concertized and elaborated the slogans when it appealed to Kisans and the people to turn away from the path of sabotage and terrorist and disruptive activities which lead not to the weakening of the bureaucracy but to the ruin of our own people to the disaster for our country. ”It pointed out that“ the one and only way out of this crisis is to build the broadest possible national unity, based on the unity of the Hindu and the Muslim masses, resulting in Congress-League Unity.”
Campaign for All-in Unity
This was the main political task for the Kisan Sabha workers who were urged to carry out a political explanatory campaign among kisans and the people, explaining to them the principles mentioned above,” to“ demand the release of Gandhiji and Congress leaders, to support the national demand and to foil the Government attempt to form an anti-Congress or anti-national bloc “and to” organize a unity campaign in every village and in rural areas to promote unity between the Hindu and Muslim masses, between various castes and communities, between all patriotic sections of the towns and the villages, to create a mass urge for Congress-League unity with a view to forge all-in National unity which alone can enable us to wrest power from the bureaucracy and to defend our motherland.”
As for the mass mobilization of the Kisans, the. Bihta session of the A. I. K. S. and later the Bombay session of the C. K. C. gave out and explained the main Kisan slogan of “Grow-more-food.” A programme of work was also chalked out; The Kisan Sabha workers in various provinces and districts have set themselves to work out the programme.
Right of National Self-determination
In the past year the Sabha greatly succeeded in turning away the Kisans from the path of sabotage and national disruption which was the result of our political explanatory campaign. The achievement of our National Unity Campaign has been of no mean importance. Today the ’Muslim League gives us a patient hearing where a year ago we hardly could approach its followers. It has been found through experience that if the “ Pakistan“ demand of the League is explained in the light of the right of national self-determination, which is a just right and which even the latest Congress resolution does not deny, the obstacle to Hindu-Muslim Unity can be largely removed.
The Kisan Sabha workers have boldly stood against police repression when the people had to face it in their helplessness. They have done a lot for the withdrawal or remission of collective fines. They have intervened in the food crisis in the rural areas as well as in the price question which forms part of that crisis. They have served the kisans as far as they could in securing fair price for their produce. Various essential commodities were secured for them at reasonable prices.
Moreover, the Kisan Sabha workers took up many urgent local demands of the kisans which concerned land, rent, debt etc. and linked them up with the Grow-more-food campaign. They inspired them for their self-defence and set up Self-defence or Janaraksha Committees as in Bengal. A self-sufficiency programme such as that of introducing useful handicraft and cottage industries among the Kisans has been of immense economic benefit to them and it helped rebuilding the Kisan Sabha.
Real Kisan Work Needed
Side by side with these achievements we have had our failings as well. Our campaign of anti-sabotage and unity propaganda among the Kisan patriots has not been vigorous enough. The lost Kisans have been brought back to the Kisan Sabha all right but most of them have not been converted into so many propagandists of the Kisan Sabha policy and millions of unconscious Kisans are still left unapproached.
Our success was achieved only in the general campaign but we have not done enough in organizing and mobilizing the Kisans on their day-to-day demands which, have been widely neglected; This shows how our approach to the Kisans has not been a real Kisan approach. The politics behind this approach appears to be more abstract than it ought to be when it has to deal with he Kisan and his day-to-day problems.
The enrollment of Kisan Sabha membership, which is over 2,80,000, and is no doubt much larger than in the previous year. But even there the cases of a few provinces only may be called satisfactory. And even that membership for a population of 40 crores of which 80 per cent arc Kisans works out a poor figure in aggregate. The Provincial Kisan Sabhas must not fail to realize the deficiency of it, now that the Kisan Sabha is growing into a major national political force.
The Bihta slogan of Grow-more-food ought to have been taken up more energetically and widely if it were meant to benefit the Kisans and the entire people in the context of national defence and in the face of the increasing acuteness of the food crisis.
Food Crisis,Benefits Profiteer
The food crisis today is the most vital problem that requires immediate attention. The entire nation and particularly the peasantry are affected by it. This problem has two aspects: supply of food and production of food. The Kisan Sabha must deal with both.
How does the food crisis, this total absence of food from the market take place? Has the peasant ceased to produce? No. True, there has been crop failure in certain parts of the country. But there are other parts of the country which have got bumper crops, for example wheat in the Punjab and rice in Assam and Orissa.
Then what happens? Where does food go? Does the Kisan hold it for his own consumption; No. If he did. there could be no food crisis for 80 per cent of the people. In fact the Kisan sold his stocks to the profiteers, but he cannot now purchase in older to feed himself and his family. He has eaten up seeds and sold his cattle to pay fabulous rates demanded by the profiteer, price of rice has gone up from Rs. 12 to Rs. 30 in the course of the last three months in Calcutta. Who gets this price? Not the peasant who produces, but the profiteer and hoarder. The cream is, taken away by the speculator.
The entire price policy of the Government has hit the peasant more than anybody else. When control is resorted to, cloth prices are fixed at relatively higher rates than cotton prices, sugar prices relatively higher than sugarcane prices. The kisan who produces the raw material hardly gets the cost price, while in the mill owner hands the price is suddenly inflated and the kisan as consumer is robbed of the fruits of his toil.
Stupid Price Control Policy
The tale is similar in the case of foodstuffs. In the harvest season a certain control rate is fixed. The profiteer goes to the kisans and grabs every morsel of grain. As soon as the kisans dispose of their entire, stocks, the profiteer hoards it up and the government is forced to raise the rate and put it on a higher level. If bureaucracy has the law at its disposal but instead of applying punish the profiteer, it surrenders to his greed and punishes the people by forcing them to starve.
In this way it encourages speculative hoarding and the price, goes up and up. Such a price policy, which hits the people and the. peasant producer so hard, dangerously weakens the rear of National Defence and only encourages the aggressor and the fifth column traitors who arc. always on the lookout for opportunities to incite the poor people to tooting in order to disrupt National Defence. The bureaucracy complacently observes this because in its scheme of National Defence, people are out of the picture, because to the die-hard bureaucrat Defence means bullets and guns minus the people. This policy’ is being carried out with ruthless vengeance and has led to the latest phase of the food crisis.
Total Starvation Faces People
The Central Government has decided that food should be centrally controlled. Of course the Provincial Government is the chief apparatus of control: and the Provincial Government, in order to purchase stocks, has to appoint big grain dealers because popular organizations, food committees and the like are not to be trusted. These dealers cannot of course supply grains at control rates because what concerns them most is profit and more profit, not patriotism nor the people. So they demand withdrawal of all control so that they can do the purchasing at any price. The Government naturally obliges them by removing control and grain prices shoot up to a horribly high level.
The result is that the people face total starvation. Stocks are frozen in every province., in every district, in every sub-division and taluq by special orders so that their movement is checked. The result is that everybody starves even though food is there in a neighboring area. The bureaucracy wants to procure grain stocks in the easiest way it can conceive of, no matter what happens to the consuming people. Just as the bureaucrat demoralises them in the matter of defending the country, so docs he starve them to death.
The Government policy of controlling and decontrolling prices has the same effect in raising prices and drawing foodstuffs into the hands of hoarders. In Madras decontrolling during harvest season forced down prices which went up later when control was introduced. But in Bengal a reverse policy produced the same results. During the harvest season the control rate of rice was Rs. 10 to Rs. 12 per month. But following decontrol it is now selling at Rs. 20 to Rs. 30.
No Hoarding by Kisans
In the Punjab wheat was controlled during harvest time and kisans never got more than Rs. 12 per month. Hoarders refused to sell it outside the province so that in November and December last atta sold in Delhi at high a rate as Re. 1 per seer and even Rs 4 per seer for a few days. Atta was not available in Culcutta. Hence control bad to be removed with the result that price soared up. At present atta sells in Calcutta and other non- wheat-growing areas at Rs. 10 per mound.
The robbing of the peasantry goes on everywhere in the interest of the profiteers. The United Kingdom Commercial Corporation bought wheat cheap in India and sold it at fabulous prices in Iran and Iraq.
There is persistent propaganda made by interested quarters that kisans hoard their food crops. This is a lie. Most of kisans who grow food have to sell their produce at a cheap rate in order to pay rent, taxes and interest etc. and after some time they have to buy it at higher rate. Hardly 5 to 10 per cent of the peasantry can afford to keep some surplus stock But such ought to be made to realize by the organized kisans that boarding on their part in the present condition is an unpatriotic and anti- social act.
Against Equitable Distribution
The difference between the purchase and sale prices for the kisan is now so great that he can buy hardly more than half the quantity he has sold for the same amount of money. So he cannot have sufficient grains for his year’s consumption and will be forced to mortgage his land. This will naturally mean guaranteeing a hundred percent hoarding in the next year by the non-kisan and profiteering mortgagee.
Equitable distribution of food is the vital need of the hour, food cannot be equitably distributed and the necessary stocks secured in the manner the bureaucracy does. It can be done on in cooperation with the people’s food committees composed of various patriotic parties and organizations and run by trained volunteers.
It is on this issue, on the issue of giving the power of food, supply to the People’s Food Committees, that the bureaucracy offers its stubborn resistance. It is easy to understand why. It is not prepared to confer power on a National Government for India’s Defence.
Grow-More-Food Is K. S. Task
What should the Kisan Sabha do in tacking the Grow-more-food question? There are enormous tracts of cultivable waste land in the country. According to one calculation (R. k Das, “ The Industrial Efficiency of India”) only 262 million acres out of India’s total arable land of 864 million acres or 30 per cent are cultivated and 602 million acres or 70 per cent are wasted.
In Bengal alone there are 37 lakhs of acres of such land which constitute 8 per cent of the total cultivable land in that province. If this wasteland were made available to the actual tillers, Bengal would get today about 7.5 crore mounds of rice more.
This waste land in all provinces must be bought under cultivation and sown with food crops as far as possible and without further delay. This the Government should be induced to do.
Government has not done anything to implement the Grow-more-food slogan which it has raised too, only to keep it on paper. The Kisan Sabha workers and the kisans must force the government to put this vital slogan into practice. For the purpose of growing more food Government must procure and distribute waste land, seeds, fertilizers, cattle etc. among the poorer kisans and land laborers so that there can be no shortage in the people’s food supply. How can the devitalized and starving people be induced to defend the country? The kisans must be kept fit and then given enough food now. Then they will be able to work well and produce more. The problem is not merely of more land but of better output as well which is not possible in the case of kisans with reduced capacity to work.
Production Campaign Most Vital
In order to make the Grow-more-food campaign a success, the policy behind it must be thoroughly explained to the kisans and made acceptable to them. They know that the policy involves the declaration of moratorium on all rent and debt arrears which will enthuse them. It should also be explained that this question concerns not only the kisans but all other sections of the people ao that they should seek help and co-operation of those sections also for strengthening the campaign.
If the campaign is pursued in this manner its success will be more and more assured and it will lead to ever-increasing unity being forged between the different sections of the people. The kisan’s patriotic duty of helping to keep up the nation’s morale for the country’s defence by giving it food will be most fruitfully discharged through the success of this campaign.
An important gain which can be derived from the Grow-more- food campaign is that it will be real kisan work in that the workers will have not only to approach the kisans formally but to teach them and learn from them technicalities that lie inherent in what the campaign implies—questions and intricacies relating to actual work of cultivation and production. That will make the Kisan Sabha the real Sabha of the Kisans—the agrarian folk who do not understand the intellectual jargon they often have to listen to.
The Grow-more-food campaign is just a part of the entire food problem which relates to the specific tasks of the Kisan Sabha more than the other aspect of the food problem—the supply and distribution of food and other essential commodities at reasonable Prices.
Wanted—K. S. Organization
Comrades, I have set before you a very broad outline of the more vital problems which force the Kisan Sabha today. The solution of these problems cannot wait a day longer. But one must realize that so far these problems and the method of solving hem as suggested above have been mere theories and paper schemes without a sanction of reality behind them. The campaign can be effective and successful only if there is a strong and forceful organization of the Kisan Sabha to undertake it. The present Kisan Sabha with all its branches has to be turned into such an organizational machine as will allow none of its jobs to remain unfulfilled.
The Kisan Sabha must develop into an active and vigilant system— an institution which knows its job and does its job. The office and the field must be kept in constant touch with each other– and in perfect unity and coordination of work. There must be proper arrangements for finding and training up its workers and it ants, whether whole-time or part-time, for reporting and guiding, for securing necessary funds and for implementing its decisions, economic, social and political. The kisan life in all its spheres will then be the field of the Kisan Sabha’s study and Brevity. It will then succeed not only in bringing into itself and mobilizing all sections of the kisan population, including kisan women but also in bringing under kisan leadership the entire rural population of the country.
A. strong and efficient volunteer organization must be deemed an essential“ part of the Kisan Sabha. It may function directly inside the Kisan Sabha and under the Self-defense or People’s Food Committees and for food conferences as necessity arises. And volunteers require as much training as any worker of the Kisan Sabha.
Build Kisan Sabha in 1943!
Hence the basic slogan of the Kisan Sabha today should be. Build the Kisan Sabha in 1948 and make, its functioning apparatus as strong and vast as the kisan population of the country.
Thus by building the Kisan Sabha and solving the food and other problems as envisaged above we leading to a National Government for National Defense and National Liberation.
Kisan Sabha Zindabad !
Date: 2-4 April, 1943
Author: Bankim Mukherji