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  • Thousands of agricultural workers marched to Parliament Street in Delhi on August 9 demanding rights for landless rural workers.

    Thousands of agricultural workers marched to Parliament Street in Delhi on August 9 demanding rights for landless rural workers. | Photo: Courtesy: Newsclick

Published 10 August 2017

Thousands of people marched to Parliament Street in Delhi on August 9 calling for rights for landless rural workers.

Marchers have been protesting in the Indian capital Delhi to demand rights for the nation's growing number of landless rural workers.

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Organized by the All India Agricultural Workers Union, AIAWU, the demonstraors submitted a list of demands in a message to the Prime Minister, Labour Minister and Rural Development Minister.

The union highlighted the proportion of landless people in rural India which had already reached 55 percent in 2011.

The protesters also drew attention to the living conditions of the poorest 30 percent of India's population - people who are homeless and jobless.

 “The essence of the problem lies in the growth of the landless in our rural society from 28.1 percent in 1951 to 37.8 percent in 1971, from 40.3 percent in 1991 to less than 55 percent in 2011,” the memorandum said. 

It also reported that tens of thousands farmers lose their land each year because of debt, extreme weather conditions and fluctuating crop prices.

The union said in these circumstances, the issue of employment becomes necessary for the survival of three million  people.

It went on to criticise the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee, MNREGA scheme which is meant to “secure the lives and livelihood of the rural poor" but has been badly implemented and even neglected. 

"Instead of 100 days work, the figures are only 37 days per family. The wages of labour under MNREGA are less than the minimum wages declared by different states and often thousands of crores of dues have not been paid for work done as a result of not receiving central funds in time,” the memorandum stated.

The union demanded that the Centre should pay wages — a matter of life and death for MNREGA workers — and asked for a minimum grant as a safety net for them.

The AIAWU also wants the minimum guaranteed days of work under the scheme to be be raised to 250, from the current 100, while expressing concern over the current minimum wage. 

It also pointed out that daily wage earners doing menial jobs, or casual laborers, have been excluded from the lists of beneficiaries of the National Food Security Act 2013, in most parts of the country.

“We demand that the government launch a new drive to include all agricultural labourers, scheduled castes, and tribes ..among the beneficiaries or be given the amount due to them as a matter of principle,” the memorandum said.

The Union asked the Centre to ensure that migrant laborers be registered and included in all welfare schemes ensuring them shelter, minimum wages, and social security. 

The workers demanded a minimum pension of US$47 per month for elderly and destitute agricultural laborers. 

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The AIAWU also pointed out that there was more than enough ceiling-surplus land “vested in gram panchayats (village council)," along with "waste and forest land that has been inhabited for generations by Adivasis." 

"These lands should be distributed among the landless Dalits, Adivasis and agricultural labourers rather than being distributed to corporate and land mafias through the reversal of land reforms and the arbitrary acquisition of land by government agencies," the memorandum stated. 

In the case of land acquisitions, agricultural laborers who have lost their jobs should be compensated as adequately as land owners.

“We further demand that every homeless family be provided with a home and a lavatory,” ended the message to the government.

This piece was originally published at Newsclick: 

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