Monday, August 30, 2010

Farmers want amended Land Acquisition Bill. PM promises to take up the issue in next parliment session

Last week saw huge protests in North India due to the Yamuna Expressway highway construction on fertile agricultural lands at unfair compensation rates. After kisan panchayats in U.P, BKU farmers along with others also "gheraoed the parliment" [surrounded the parliment] and blocked the streets of Delhi to demand amendments to the pending Land Acquisition Act.

A broad spectrum of political parties supported their struggle including Rahul Gandhi of Congress, Ajit Singh of the Rashtriya Lok Dal, Arun Jaitley of BJP, Brinda Karat of CPI, Sharad Yadav of Janta Dal and leaders from Telugu Desam, AIADMK and Akali Dal also showed support.

The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has promised that the bill will be taken up in the next winter session of the parliment. India's land acquisition act has not changed since 1894 despite efforts in 2007 and 2009. Farmers are hopful that it will be amended soon.

Watch video on LiveMint: http://www.livemint.com/2010/08/26225040/Uttar-Pradesh-farmers-protest.html

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Farmers meeting on land grabbing in Tappal U.P - the government has been warned


Tappal U.P, 20th Aug: A massive Kisan Panchayat (Farmers Meeting) led by BKU (Bhartiya Kisan Union) was held on the 20th in Tappal village (near Aligarh) in U.P. This was the culmination of the ongoing farmers protests in UP over unfair land acquisition by the government for the Jaypee industries destined for the Yamuna Expressway as well as the construction of a township and other private real estate development. The main and urgent demand of the farmers was to increase the rate of compensation from the originally stipulated Rs 470 Rs per square meter to 880 Rs per Sq meter which was the same rate given to farmers during the construction of Greater Noida near Delhi. More than 15,000 farmers attended the panchanyat and others arrived from across the country. The general secretary of the Congress Party Mr Rahul Gandhi also arrived at the meeting site and assured the farmers that the congress party was on the side of the farmers just struggle. Mr Digvijay Singh, the chief minister of M.P. also attended and assured the same.

Mr Tikait, as the leader of BKU has warned the government that "if the government continues to play the role of a "broker" or property dealer between private industries and farmers then they will have to face the retaliation and discontent of the farmers." He further urged the farmers and warned the government that " Unless farmers demands are taken into consideration, they will not let the Yamuna expressway work carry on in U.P". In the U.P case they had stipulated a price of around 450 per sq meter as compensation to the farmers while they were further going to sell off the land for about 6000 Rs per sq feet. The farmers clarified that they were not against land acquitted for highway construction and other public oriented reasons.However the forcible land grabbing at unjust rates will not be tolerated for the construction of farm houses, malls and other useless reasons or what the farmers call the colonization of the countryside. Furthermore there needs to be a permanent ban on the acquisition of fertile agricultural land for anything but agriculture. The government should stop trying to play mediator for the private industries and that too using violence and the state security forces.

Farmers contended that the latent Land Acquisition Bill first tabled in 2007 needs to be turned into a legislation that will represent the farmers interests. Farmers organizations and peoples movements need to be involved in the rewriting of this bill. The Aligarh protests that resulted in the death of 3 people is not an isolated case, already many land grabbing related violent protests have broken out in the past in Noida where 6 farmers died, then the brutal repression of peasants in Singur are just a few to mention. In order to tackle this problem and unfair grabbing of community lands there needs to be a comprehensive legislation across the nation and on which is formulated with ample involvement and participation of farmers, tribals and others whose land is being grabbed. A commission should also be set up that will ensure that the rights of India's people are not stepped over and their redresses are addressed in such cases. In its current form the Land acquisition bill facilitates giving over land to big corporations for mining, dams, SEZs.

Taking farmers land away from them is a serious crime against humanity. On the one hand it threatens the livelihoods and sustenance of people who depend on the land. On the other hand it condemns many to hunger and destitution. In a country where hunger and poverty are rising social disasters, using land for anything else but growing food and putting farmers at an existential insecurity is unethical and unacceptable to the farmers movements.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Farmers Resist Unfair Farm Land Grab in UP – Demand Higher Compensation and an End to Colonization of the Countryside


Uttar Pradesh: 3 people have died in skirmishes between the police and farmers protests over the land acquisitions for the Yamuna Expressway in the state of Uttar pradesh over the past week. This is because approximately 40,000 acres of land is being acquired for the construction of an expressway between Agra and Noida. Land around the proposed expressway is also being acquired for the construction of a township and the farmers are not being adequately compensated even after slight increase in compensation from 449 to 570 Rs per sq meter and the farmers remain unsatisfied.

BKU farmers have also joined the already protesting farmers in their struggle against unfair grabbing of agricultural land. Ch Tikait [head of BKU] will be joining farmers in Tappal [in Aligarh] after a protest march from village Sisauli to Tappal. At Tappal, a kisan panchayat [farmers meeting] will be organized to plan the future course of events. BKU spokesman Yudhvir Singh said, “we are not against the construction of a highway but the construction companies are being donated land by the UP government at such a low cost not only on the highway route but also all along the sides of the highway. Farmers will get a mere 570 Rs per square meter but the Jaypee company will colonize that area by developing real  estate like farm houses, malls and condos and then selling the same land for more than 1000 times the price.” We are not talking about a couple of acres here, but more than 21% of the land in India's largest state U.P. has already been earmarked for such projects.

So the issue is not just adequate compensation, it is as much about how the land is used. The government quietly meting out  extra chunks of fertile land to corporations for commercial construction  will be a very profitable business venture for a few at the cost of the livelihood of thousands and India’s food security itself.

Farm land grabbing is a major problem in India with the wave of land acquisitions for development such as Special Economic Zones [SEZ'z], highways and townships springing up everywhere. In a country where there is rampant hunger and unemployment, cities on the verge of explosion and a huge agricultural population the only sensible and just  thing to do is to support people who work the land and protect its productive capacity. We need to create policies that will appreciate the farmer's  role in society as the food growers of the nation and provide them a dignified life and a decent income. What will we achieve by wasting fertile land on more malls, condo's and disney lands?- hunger,  more farmers suicides and even more slums in the cities. 


More info will come soon.
For more information of farm land grabs world wide: http://farmlandgrab.org/
News articles on the current UP Yamuna expressway issue:

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/lucknow/Aligarh-farmers-seek-Tikaits-help-to-intensify-agitation/articleshow/6333396.cms

http://stockmarkettoday.in/2010/08/19/up-govt-offers-enhanced-package-to-agra-farmers/

http://ibnlive.in.com/generalnewsfeed/news/bku-extends-support-to-farmers/243165.html

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Farmers protest all over Uttar Pradesh

On the 22nd and 21st of July BKU carried out dharna’s, road blocks, gherao's and panchayats at collectorate offices and other spaces in Fatehpur, Lukhnow, Bijnaur, Mirzapur, Ghaziabad, Muzzafarnagar and Amroha and Saharanpur all at the same time.


The local issues of concern were brought up before the district and additional district magistrates as well as a letters addressed to the prime minister were submitted to the local officials in all the sites. The issues ranged from exploitation of farmers by corrupt government officials, electricity cuts, unfair land grabs, lack of irrigation facilities, exorbitant input costs, non payment on time by sugar mill owners and deregulation and privatization of the sugar industry as well as demands to fix crop prices before the sowing season were made. They demanded that the minimum support prices of wheat be declared at 1500 Rs per quintal, of cane at 350 Rs, pulses at 6500 Rs and potatoes at 500 Rs respectively. The standing demand for Swaminathan committees recommendation to improve farmers incomes by adding 50% profit above cost price was also made- however the government has not seemed to have heeded this yet.


The road blocks and show of popular strength forced the district officials to come out of their offices and discuss the farmers demands.


For more information:- please visit BKU's blog at http://bhartiyakisanunion.blogspot.com/2010_07_01_archive.html

Monday, August 16, 2010

South Indian Farmers not satisfied with Seed Bill

South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements [SICCFM]
Meeting on the Seed Bill, 30 June 2010
Press Release


The South Indian Farmers Coordinating Committee (SICCFM) comprising of Karnataka
Rajya Ryotha Sangha (KRRS), Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi, Thamizhaga Vivasayigal
Sangam (TVS) and Kerela Coconut Farmers Association held an urgent meeting on the
seed bill at the Indian Social Institute in Banglore on the 30th June 2010. The meeting was
attended by eminent farmer’s leaders like Kodihalli Chandrashekhar, Nallagounder of
Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi, Mr.Sadagopan - President of Uzhavar Periyakkam,
Kannaiyan, Thamizhaga Vivasayigal Sangam( TVS) and eminent agriculture policy
analyst Dr. Ramanjaneyalu.

This crucial seed bill will be discussed during the upcoming monsoon session of the Rajya
Sabha and has the potential to change the face of Indian agriculture. This bill seeks to
regulate the quality of seeds sold commercially in India – i.e. sold under brand names for
profit. This bill was brought into being because of the changing face of the Indian seed
industry with many seed companies and technologies entering Indian agriculture like
GMOs and hybrids -already some crops like cotton, maize and sunflower are totally
controlled by very few companies. The bill aims among other things to ensure that Indian
farmers receive quality seeds from companies and commercial seed sellers.

On the face of things this bill might seem like it is really great for farmers as it seeks to
save them from spurious seeds, however in reality the SICCFM said that that bill lacks
teeth and is letting companies off the hook as there is no control on seed prices – which is
the major issue when it comes to company seeds. Also incase
company seeds fail to perform then the act asks farmers to approach Consumer courts –
this is a weak and unfeasible provision. There is no provision to control huge company
royalties – letting seed companies have one of the highest profit margins compared to any
other industry. State governments as well do not have powers to regulate these companies
in their states due to the current weakness of the laws. In AP for example, the state
government has been taken to court various times by seed companies on charges of
harassment when the state government tried to regulate exorbitant prices, royalties and
seed failures to protect their farmers.

The SICCFM made a few sharply focused amendment demands to this bill. They demand
firstly that this bill needs to regulate not only the prices of seeds but also the royalties
received by companies – currently 75% of some seed prices go as royalties to companies –
probably the highest royalties in any industry. Kodihalli Chandrashekhar of KRRS said
that, “State governments must have powers under the act to regulate company seed prices
otherwise companies will raise prices, monopolize seeds and exploit farmers and the food
security and sovereignty of the country will be under threat.” Secondly SICCFM
demanded that this bill needs much stronger infringement clauses - both compensation to
farmers as well as fines that are proportionate to value and volume of company sales.
SICCFMF commented that Rs 30,000 is hardly a fine for a large company and that the
state governments should have the power to impose fines. Nallagounder of TVS said that,
“According to the bill farmers have to approach the consumer protection act for
compensation – this is hardly possible for a poor farmer with no legal knowledge or
resources. Sharad Pawar has proposed an amendment to create a different compensation
committee for compensation purposes but we demand that localized committee should be
appointed by the state government in a manner which is easily approachable by the
farmer and so that he can receive quick and reasonable compensation within a time frame
of 60 days.” Lastly they demanded that all imported seeds must be tested and produced
on Indian soil. Imported seeds should prove their environmental and health safety
according to Indian standards as well as match up to claims of performance made by
companies.

Kannaiyan the convener of SICCFM said, “We will be meeting various political parties,
Rajya Sabha MPs and state governments of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu and Kerela to
make our demands before the monsoon session of the parliament starts and unless the
farmers interests are not protected then this bill should not be passed in the parliament.”

For further details:
S.Kannaiyan - 09444989543.
siccfm@gmail.com.
Kodiahally Chandrasekar- 09844293908

Bangladesh Peasants Discuss Climate Change: 31 Workshops in 11 Districts


31 Climate Change workshops took place in 22 Sub-Districts under the 11 Districts.


Bangladesh is one of the most victimized countries of the world due to Climate Change. Northern part of Bangladesh is gradually going to face desertification with continued droughts. At the same time southern part of Bangladesh will be destroyed by cyclones and high tidal wave sinks in the saline water of the sea permanently. Six seasons of Bangladesh have now turned to three seasons- Summer, Rain and Winter. But those three do not continue to function with the usual rules - during summer it is too hot, during winter it is unbearably cold. Cold is regularly breaking old records and making new records. There is a possibility that people of Bangladesh will see snow soon.  Rain falls in undue time and lasts for short time. All people know that last year rain came one and half month late. As a result; peasants started the Amon paddy plant so late....

Click here to see full report and photos : Report of 31 Climate Workshops in Bangladesh

South Asian Women gather on Women's Day

South Asian peasant women leaders held a meeting in Kathmandu Nepal on International Women's Day [8th March] to plan their 'End Violence Against Women' campaign. Their declaration is below. 



Declaration of South Asian Women of La Via Campesina
International Women’s Day, Kathmandu, Nepal, 8 March 2010

We the women of La Via Campesina’s South Asian peasant’s movements, namely, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and sisters from Indonesia and Korea, come together on this women’s day in Kathmandu, Nepal to reaffirm and demand the respects of our rights and the complete rejection of the patriarchal system.

We strongly reject the neo-liberal capitalist system based on violence and the marginalization of many for the profits of a few. This system is leading to the displacement of our communities from our lands, the privatization of our seeds, water, knowledge, resulting in loss of biodiversity and the militarization of our lands. Our struggles for our rights and justice are being repressed by neo-liberal forces and the government as their lackeys by the use of state security forces. This system is causing extreme hunger, poverty, and migration. The effect of this system on women is leading to their exploitation and trafficking. Women are facing immense burdens for the survival and well being of their families in the backdrop of marginalization, lack of rights and discrimination.

We recognize that violence against women exists on several fronts. There is violence based on economic dependence and the lack of women’s rights in society. Physical and psychological violence is also entrenched in cultural and religious practices like child marriages, dowry, honor killings, seclusion and forbidden food items, witch killings etc. Women are not equally able to participate in decision making either at the home or in public life both in government and also in social movements. These injustices are unacceptable for the achievement of an egalitarian society.

Therefore on the occasion of this women’s day we have decided to unite our efforts and our struggles to fight for a society based on peace and dignity for all.

We South Asian peasant women reaffirm our commitment to the following:-

-         Continue our struggle against patriarchy and neo-liberalism.

-         Condemn all forms of violence against women and commit to break the culture of silence surrounding violence against women.

-          Increase education and consciousness raising among women and men on the causes of violence and find ways to confront them in common.

-         Pressurize governments for the effective implementation of all the laws, acts & statues to achieve gender equality.

-         Pressurize government to punish committers of rape, dowry killings, female infanticide/ feticide severely.

-         Respect for women’s reproductive rights.

-         Decision making power and equal participation of women at all levels – from the home to the national level and especially within our movements and organizations.

-         Equal rights over property and access to productive resources like land, water and seeds.

-         Promote peasants based sustainable agro-ecological methods of farming and ban green revolution technologies like GMOs. Peasants based agriculture is the only solution to climate change and peasant’s role as the guardians of seeds, water, soils and biodiversity should be recognized.

-         Show solidarity with our sisters in conflict areas. Women are more vulnerable to violence and bear an undue burden and risk. Special protection programs should be created to address women’s issues in conflict areas.

-         Opportunities for youth to continue a dignified life based on agriculture and have pride in peasant culture. Agriculture is the culture and livelihood of the majority of South Asian people however we are being forced to migrate to cities and leave our agriculture and our communities.

-         Equal wages for equal work. It is unacceptable that women are paid lesser when they work on par with their male counter parts. Women have more responsibilities for the well being of their families and household responsibilities.

-         Support women that are forced into sex work both culturally and economically to find security, alternative and dignified work opportunities instead of facing condemnation.

-         Food sovereignty, peasants’ rights and equal access to land. These are absolutely necessary for a vibrant peasant culture and a society based on justice, peace and dignity.


Globalize Hope! Globalize Struggle!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Asian Farmers Movements Commit to Promote Agroecology


Asian movements of LVC organized a network building activity of farmer agroecology trainers in Sri Lanka in May 2010. The event was locally hosted and organized by MONLAR [Movement for National Land and Agrarian Reform].

The aim of the meeting was for farmer agroecology practitioners and teachers to make a network in order to promote agroecological practices in the continent of Asia through a horizontal “farmer to farmer” training methodology. This methodology has already been very successful in LVC and other peasant movements of Cuba and Central America and is a challenge to the traditional top down training methodology where the farmer and his own knowledge are ignored. 

The participants formulated an agroecology declaration as well as a draft framework policy for agroecology [or how an agroecology policy should ideally look like.]

The participants also had the opportunity to become introduced to the  ‘Zero Budget Natural Farming’ of Mr Subhash Palekar who was keynote speaker at the event. Many members of MONLAR and KRRS are already practicing his method and the participants had the opportunity to visit the very diverse home gardens in Sri Lanka that were using the ZBNF method.

Both South Asia and South East and East asia are in the process of consulting and formulating regional agroecology work plans. While some follow up activities are already being planned. 

In South Asia a follow up activity to be carried out sometime at the end of this year will be an on farm visit to the KRRS farmers that are successfully practicing agreoecology and the ZBNF method. This will be a practical visit where besides understanding the techniques, the suitability of these methods in other parts of India, and Asia will be discussed.

The Declaration and the Draft policy framework for Agroecology are below:- 


The Colombo Declaration 
Asian Agroecology Encounter
La Vía Campesina
Colombo, Sri Lanka
18-22 May 2010



The La Via Campesina organized a five days Asian Agroecology Encounter, hosted by the Movement for Land and Agricultural Reforms (MONLAR) at the Community Education Centre (CEC) in Colombo, Sri Lanka. This was attended by practitioners and trainers of sustainable agriculture from eight countries in East Asia, South East Asia and South Asia representing mainly farming and agroecology movements.

The encounter was aimed at strengthening up the solidarity and farmer-to-farmer contact among the agroecology movements in Asia, identifying the strengths and weaknesses of the different sustainable farming methods and building a campaign for debt free and poison free agroecology movement in the region with the support and guidance of the La Via Campesina. The encounter was aimed towards putting in practice the principles of food sovereignty, which is fundamental to the Via Campesina, through the sustainable agriculture practices. At the Encounter the participants developed regional work plans to support the promotion of agroecology, sustainable agriculture and natural farming among the member families of La Via Campesina organizations.

This encounter is the second in series, first one was the Latin America Encounter which was held in Barinas (Venezuela) in August 2009, planned by La Via Campesina to bring in a culture of resistance, struggle and autonomy to give a new identity to the peasant community in the world, in order to strike at the monopolization of seeds, indigenous knowledge and promotion of chemical fertilizers and pesticides through the agroecology way of farming. Via Campesina believes that the agroecology is the only way to have a better work conditions for the farmers and to regenerate a farming system which is environmentally and economically sustainable, socially just and culturally acceptable.

The encounter also produced a draft policy framework for agroecology which would help initiate a discussion in the region to have ‘an agroecology policy’ in each country and in each organization to bring in an agrarian reform which is ‘pro farmer’ and not ‘pro Corporate’ in order to ensure the livelihoods of rural population and farming communities. The members and allies of the Via Campesina will work with partners and other movements in each Asian country to influence the ‘friendly’ government to legislate an agroecology policy and implement it effectively for the benefit of the farming Community at large.
####
Note:   During the encounter, the participants also had the privilege to come across the zero budget natural farming method presented by Mr. Subash Palekar who is propagating this sustainable method of farming in India and South Asia.

The Policy Framework for Agroecology 

Need for a Policy in Agroecology
  • The need for a Policy for Agroecology, at the national level, to regenerate our farming system which is environmentally and economically sustainable and socially & culturally acceptable and just.
  • Which help to spread and propagate the sustainable agroecology farming system in order to unshackle the slavery of peasants and farmers from corporate agro-business, Debt traps and menace of Toxic chemicals, GMOs, Patents and inefficient use of water resources?

Aim of an Agroecology PolicyTo save farmers and agriculture from the present agrarian crisis and bring in agrarian reform which is pro-people and not pro corporate, discourage and disconnect from all elements of commercialization of agriculture,
  • To ensure the livelihoods of rural population and farming communities and make a positive contribution to the production and productivity in the agricultural sector,
  • To ensure the use of local resources (like seeds, manures etc) without any monopolistic control of MNCs, 
  • To counter the present neo-liberal policies on land, water, seeds and market,
  •  To conserve the environmental resources base and traditional wisdom and sustain it for the coming generation. 

Agroecology policy must ensure
    1. food sovereignty;
    2. fundamental human right to access and/or produce food;
    3. a diverse, family/community (with equal respect to men/women) based peasant agriculture system, in harmony with nature, and embodied in local cultures;
    4. an agriculture system which caters to the people and NOT to the MARKET;
    5. a agriculture system which support fair returns to farm labors and ensure their food security;
    6. a democratic land reform to guarantee equitable access to land in order to bring people back on their fields;
    7. protection from technological interventions until proven safe under the local standards of safety, sustainability, health and environment;
    8. protection from the entry and use of hazardous technologies i.e. chemical fertilizers & pesticides and genetic engineering, which are  harmful for the people, the environment, the field, the biodiversity, the animals and the water bodies;
    9. protection and conservation of agro-biodiversity, varietal diversity, forest diversity, animal diversity and birds diversity;
    10. protection and conservation of local indigenous knowledge about food and food production and its control in the hands of local communities;
    11. empowerment of the local communities to control their lives;
    12. protection of indigenous knowledge and resources from exploitation and commercial appropriation through patents and IPRs system;
    13. Rights of the local communities over their food, seeds, land, water and natural resources;
    14. rights of local communities to form farmers cooperative/federation to voluntarily/collectively enter into sustainable and fair trade to market their SURPLUS produce, in the local and domestic market;
    15. rights of the farmers to receive ‘fair’ and ‘remunerative’ price for their produce which cover the cost of their land, their labor, the cost of production and a profit margin to allow them to live with dignity;
    16. protection from price manipulation, speculation, dumping and unnecessary imports and unfair rules of bilateral and multilateral trade agreements;
    17. That the policy on agro-ecology is in concurrence with all laws and policies on land, water, seeds, food, biodiversity, bio safety etc. If any policy or laws which will be in conflict with the provisions of agro-ecology policy, in that case the agro-ecology policy will prevail.