“Naavenmaadbeku?” (“What should we do?”)

Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, KRRS, one of the biggest farmers’ movements in South India, has initiated a process of political articulation focused on young farmers. On 1st of April the movement organised its first ever meeting to build a youth-centered farmers movement in the state. Women and Men in the age group 18-35 gathered along with senior leaders to discuss, debate, reflect on agrarian issues, and how spaces can be created for youth participation. There were overall representatives from about 15 districts of the state.

The program was titled “Naavenmaadbeku?” (“What should we do?”), an introspective question on how youth can engage with the political issues of our time. The activities of the day were very interactive and based on three themes- in the first, the participants formed groups and discussed about the social, ecological, political, economic changes happening in agriculture and in rural life as a whole. The key points that were raised included migration from rural areas to cities, impact of closure of government schools and rising education costs in private schools, lack of water and deficient rains, farmer suicides, alcoholism, excessive use of chemical fertilizers, rising farmer debt, among others.  

In the second session, everyone presented their views on what are the main lessons youth leaders could hope to learn from the previous generation of leaders, and how the farmers movement of today and tomorrow must be different from earlier times. The key issues that were raised include the need for increased women participation in leadership, need for integrating farmers concerns with youth issues, using social media for communication and making sure political differences do no create disunity within the movement. 

In the third session, each group was given an example of a real life situation and had to come up with a plan of action about how they would deal with the crisis as farmer leaders. This focused on thinking about how to mobilize people, how pressurize the government to meet demands, and how to come up with political strategies to resolve specific issues. 

The activities were moderated by Chukki, Vasantha and Sobha from Amritabhoomi, Dr.Vasu and Mallige from Karnataka Janashakti and Ramesh from Samvada. In the day, senior leaders like Badagalapura Nagendra shared their personal stories about how they joined the farmers movement during their student days, and about their journey in the movement. 

The day culminated with the formation of a state-level youth committee, comprising women and men youth from each district represented in the meeting. KRRS State President KT Gangadhar announced that study camps will be conducted for political training of youth. The state youth committee members have taken up the responsibility of mobilizing at least 100 women and men youth from their respective districts for future  youth meetings and study camps. Districts represented in the youth state committee at this point include  Tumkur, Chikkamagaluru, Yadgiri, Kolar, Davangere, Haveri, Kalburgi, Bellary, Chikkaballapura, Bagalakote, Raichuru, Mysuru, and Bengaluru Rural. 

This step is a new beginning, in a young direction. It is the enthusiasm, concern and energy of youth that will shape the farmers movement in the days to come.

This report was prepared by Akhilesh Jairam, who is a freelance researcher and interpreter, working closely with social movements. He also volunteers with Amritabhoomi, the peasant agroecology school in South India.