Monday, March 28, 2011

Interview with S Kannaiyyan of South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements on the secretly negotiated EU India FTA


Listen to the Interview of S Kannaiyan on the EU India FTa. Indias farmers had succesfully derailed the WTO agriculture talks and become a symbol of peopels resistance to unjust trade policies the world over. Here Kannaiyan talks about the challenge of the new trade regime of the FTAs and the response of farmers movements and the impacts on rural communities. ---> Click here to listen

Source: http://www.bilaterals.org/multimedia/audio/india/fightingftaindiaeufinal.mp3.php




Thursday, March 10, 2011

Indian Farmers Call off a massive planned siege of New Delhi after talk and commitments from Prime Minister

India's farmers movements have been trying hard to get the attention of the Government. They have requested several appointments with no response from the PM. It is only after the farmers threatened to lay an indefinite siege of Delhi by cutting off all the major highways that connect Delhi with the rest of the country on March 9 2011 that the PMOs office suddenly decided to acquiesce to arranging the much sought after appointment with top government officials following which the Delhi siege was called off. The farmers however were already prepared. About 12000 farmers who were already on their way reached Delhi from all across India while the majority were asked to cancel their plans to come to Delhi. Instead a public meeting was organized in New Delhi. Even the southern states of Karnataka and Tamil Nadu had sent about a thousand farmers. The farmers were met by the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Agriculture Minister Mr. Pawar, Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office V. Narayansamy, Planning Commission Member-Secretary Abhijit Sen and Agriculture Secretary P.K. Basu.

The worsening condition of the Indian agriculture sector has led to half a million farm suicides since 1995 - the largest recorded rate of suicides in human history. However the Indian government continues to formulate polices to favor the agri-business model of agriculture that increases food insecurity and dispossesses small farmers of their lands, seeds and productive resources including markets. Recently it is negotiating more than 30 FTAs, engaging in land grabs, reorienting the agricultural research establishment to the corporate agenda and setting up authorities to expedite GM crop entry, signing various deals between international seed companies and state governments among other things. It is to make specific demands to challenge these failing neoliberal policies and to promote food sovereignty and the farming community's rights that the farmer movements had decided to block New Delhi. The PM finally did agree to some constructive things.

The first thing that the PMO has agreed to do is to organize a meeting with the farmers on the Land Acquisition Act. This has been a long standing demand of the farmers movements. This is a colonial act from 1894 that has been misused by the government to gift peasants lands at throwaway prices to companies for the development of townships, malls, Special Economic Zones or what the farmers movements have called the “colonization of the countryside”. All across India farmers have been mobilizing on the sites of land grabs not only for just compensation but also to stop unfair grabbing of fertile agricultural lands. The farmers position is clear – agricultural land is for the peasant and can not be used for any unproductive purposes. Furthermore farmers want the entire act to be scrapped – no amendments will do. They want a totally new act which will address the land question and development in a holistic manner. They want a discussion and debate to take place on what is the meaning of “public purpose” - the clause in the outdated act that is being used by the government to grab land for private infrastructure projects [in the name of public purpose]. Most importantly they want that decisions in this country are taken in a democratic fashion, and those whose lands are being grabbed are not just consulted but play a significant role in the decision making and formulation of policies. Given the fact that the government did not make any effort to even address them until major agitations were launched in north India in August 2010 (see- http://lvcsouthasia.blogspot.com/2010/08/lvc-farmers-pushing-for-amended-land.html), they have now managed to get a high level meeting with the Rural Development Minister and Prime Minister in the future to further discuss their demands for this act.

The second thing that the PM has promised is that he would organize a farmers meeting with the Finance and the Agriculture ministers to specifically discuss the issues raised by the farmers. He also told the delegation that every year before the budget, the government would bring out a white paper report on the state of Indian agriculture.

The main demands of the farmers were to improve farmers incomes through more remunerative and scientifically calculated support prices, to provide health care to farm families, to scrap all agriculture deals in the various ongoing secret negotiations of bilateral FTAs and the WTO, to ban GMOs permanently since there is no need for them, to reduce the rate of farm loans. Farmers also stressed that there needs to be government support for a shift towards agroecological models of farming. The government and the agricultural establishments should support pro farmer and not pro corporate research.

Farm incomes are an especially sensitive topic. The Indian government has increased the incomes of government employees by 4 or even more times in the last 15 years but the farmers income has only deteriorated. In fact even the lowest level government employee -the peon makes a monthly salary of Rs 15000 (approx 333 USD) for a 9 to 5 job along with other services like health. But the farming family that toils 24x7 made an average income of Rs 2,115 (USD 50) in 2003-04 and the prices they receive are not even corrected for inflation. There is not even a body to fix their pay. See this article for a discussion on farmers incomes – http://www.countercurrents.org/dsharma151210.htm
The farmers have therefore been demanding that just like government employees their incomes need to be increased too and they too deserve health care. The solution to maintain the food security and sovereignty of India is to pay its farmers well not reduce the farm gate prices as is usually done to keep food prices low for consumers or for the industry.

The prime minister was in agreement with the farmers despite the contradictory policies his government has promoted and stressed their full commitment to India's farmers. Farmers have promised to carry on the pressure on the government and the PM to live up to the promises of the planned meetings.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

PM Assures Farmers that their Interests will be Protected


Official government release below on: http://www.pib.nic.in/newsite/erelease.aspx

The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh met a Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) delegation consisting of Shri Rakesh Tikait, Shri Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, President, Punjab Unit, Shri Yudhvir Singh, All India Secretary, Shri Putnaiyah, President, Karnataka Raiyat Sangh, Shri Satnam Singh Cheema, All India General Secretary, Uttarakhand, Shri Gurnam Singh, President, BKU, Haryana Unit, Shri Deewan Chand Choudhary, President, BKU, UP Unit and Shri Rajveer Singh, President, NCR. The Agriculture Minister and MoS (PMO) were present.

The delegation raised a number of issues, including remunerative prices for farm produce, amendment to the Land Acquisition Act, 4 per cent rate of interest for loans other than crop loan, effective implementation of the Minimum Support Price mechanism, due consideration of sensitivities about GM crops, protecting the interests of Indian farmers while engaging with WTO, FTA, etc., health insurance for farmers, ensuring farmers' interests while framing the Seed Bill and separate budget for agriculture like Railways.

The Prime Minister reiterated the government's deep concern for farmers welfare and assured that farmers' interests are paramount and will be fully protected at all times. He also assured that every year, before the budget, the government will bring out a report on the state of Indian agriculture. The government had already enhanced MSPs very substantially over the past 5-6 years. It will continue to strive to protect farmers' interests through the MSP mechanism. Regarding land acquisition, a separate meeting will be organized with Ministry of Rural Development and farmers' organizations.

The Prime Minister announced that he will convene a joint meeting with the Finance Minister and the Agriculture Minister to have an in-depth discussion on various issues raised by BKU just after the current budget session.


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RCJ/SH/SKS
(Release ID :70709)
 

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) has threatened to launch a major offensive by blocking all national highways to cut off Delhi from other states on March 9


source: Times of India - http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/BKU-threatens-to-cut-off-Delhi-from-other-states/articleshow/7633253.cms
ROHTAK: The brewing discontent among Indian farmers against the government policies is about to spill on roads as the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) has threatened to launch a major offensive by blocking all national highways to cut off Delhi from other states on March 9.

The BKU is angry over the continuous neglect of farming sector by the Centre and state governments and policies which have proved disastrous for the economic condition of farmers. The farmers have been opposing the acquisition of fertile land and demanding implementation of recommendations of Swaminathan committee report.

Farmers have planned road blockages on seven national highways including Delhi-Rohtak (NH 10) near Asaudha village in Jhajjar district, Delhi-Chandigarh (NH1) near Rai village in Sonipat, Delhi-Jaipur (NH8) near Gurgaon, Delhi-Palwal highway (NH2), Delhi-Saharanpur (NH58) near Mundola village in UP, Delhi-Ghaziabad (NH24) and Delhi-Noida highway.

The Haryana BKU chief Gurnam Singh told The Times of India, "The centre and state governments have been framing anti-farmer policies. They have ruined the agriculture economy. We are prepared for a prolonged fight with the government on our demands," the farmer leader threatened. He said that their blockade would continue until the government called them for a high level meeting to discuss their demands.

Listing out their demands, Singh maintained that the government should not acquire fertile land for Special Economic Zones (SEZs) and industrial projects and the land for the roads or other essential services must be acquired at a 50 percent premium from the prevailing market rates. "The MSP of the agriculture produce must be fixed as per the recommendations of the Swaminathan committee report. The farmers must be given medical facilities at par with the government employees. There should be separate budget for the agriculture like the railway budget and all kinds of loans on farmers should be waived off."

The BKU leader said that it was unfortunate that the agriculture budget in the tenth five year plan had been cut down to below 10%. "The indiscrimination in land acquisition has pushed the farmers to a corner. The farmers are hardly getting any technical or other support from the government even as the landholding is shrinking. Such policies have led to a food scarcity in the country."

Rakesh Tikait, spokesperson of the BKU said that farmers from Haryana, Punjab, UP, Rajasthan, Uttrakhand would take part in the 'halla bol' agitation beginning from March 9. "If the government does not lend an ear to us, then we would call a grand rally in Delhi," he stated.
Dharmendra Malik
Bhartiya Kisan Union