La Via Campesina South Asia and its affiliated member organisation in North India, the Bhartiya Kissan Union (BKU) organised a daylong consultation on the ‘draft declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas’ at the Indian Social Institute in Delhi on Wednesday, 12th April 2017. The consultation was organised in partnership with Focus on the Global South.
The overall objective of the consultation was to spread the information about the draft declaration and seek inputs from various peasant groups in northern India as well as others like fisherfolk, pastoralist, forest workers, dairy workers, NGO activists and youths. The consultation was intended to mobilize support from these groups at the national level to influence the Federal Government in Delhi to maintain their positive support for the Declaration but also push for its early finalization of at the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) where the negotiation is currently underway. Moreover, the Delhi’s consultation also deliberated for exploring possibilities for legislation at the national level for the recognition of peasants’ rights on the lines of the UNHCR Declaration.
LVC South Asia and Focus had widely circulated the draft declaration among various politically and non-politically affiliated peasants groups in India as well as among large networks of NGOs who provide policy support and always stand in defence of peasants’ rights in India. Some of them shared their inputs over email but also alleges their support for the draft declaration.
Following are the inputs from the consultation as well as those mailed to us with respect to the 8th March 2016 version of the Draft Declaration (A/HRC/WG.15/3/2).
General Observation about the Draft Declaration:
1. The draft declaration does not include the issue of Animal Husbandry and rights of dairy farmers.
2. The draft Declaration is missing the issue of Poultry farmers.
3. The draft Declaration does not elaborate on how to protect the rights of the peasants youth who would inherit the land from the present generation.
4. The Draft Declaration should also mention about the obligation of State in case of loss of crops and production due to damage caused by wild animals, like elephant, wild boars, blue bulls etc.
5. Article 1 (Definition of peasants and other people working in rural areas), Section (4): Several concerns were raised for the term “Salaried workers”? Some suggested to that this should be substituted by the term “Waged Workers”.
Others raised the concern and questioned the inclusion of the very term “Salaried Workers”. Their concern is that why the definition of peasants and other people working in rural areas apply to “salaried workers in agro-industrial enterprises”? Would corporations who run these agro-industrial enterprises get a chance to use these very workers to establish their rights deviously??
6. Article 2 (States' obligations), Section 5 and 6: Does section 5 as is stated is enough? Or should there be more explicit lines on how development cooperation, trade and investment agreements should be compliant/subordinate to this Declaration and states' human rights obligations?
7. Article 5 (Rights to sovereignty over natural resources....), Section 6, sub-section (b): Add “Full” before “Free” and make it "Free, Full, Prior and Informed Consent.
8. Article 6 (Rural Women's Rights): It would be good if equal property rights for women is included in this article (which infact appears at Article 19, Section 2 of the draft). A reiteration of this right in Article 19 will be useful as well.
9. Article 9 (Freedom of Movement), Section 4: Concerns were raised on the issue of transboundry tenure and it was realized that broad definition of Peasants (which include “salaried workers in agro-industrial enterprises” will be used by agro-industrial enterprises and bog corporations for land grabbing across international boundaries?
10. Article 10 (Freedoms of Thought, Opinion and Expression), Section 2: There is need to qualify the term “local customs”, by adding the "which should also comply to human rights obligations"? (as it has been phrased in Article 29, section1)
11. Article 13 (Right to information in relation to production, marketing and distribution), Section 3: there seems to be a wrong use of the term "appropriated" here.
12. Article 15 (Right to Work), Section 2: Replace "provides remuneration" with "guarantees remuneration".
13. Article 16 (Right to safety and health at work): Add a subsection (e) in Section 3; that explicitly say, "Promote and ensure that agricultural technologies and practices that do not jeopardize safety and health at work".
14. Article 17 (Right to Food), Section 2: Add “Safe” before adequate and make it "right to physical and economic access to all times to sufficient, adequate, safe and culturally acceptable food..."
15. Article 20 (Right to a safe, clean and healthy environment): In this section, LVC must demand to phase out “agro-chemicals”. This article must add a section which say, "States will take measures to phase out agro-chemicals"?
16. Article 24 (Rights to water and to sanitation): Under Section 4, add the following "provide protective irrigation wherever feasible"?
17. Article 24, section 2 subsection (g): the word “surface water and aquifer” should be added after “The protection of natural water resources”.
18. Article 25. Section 3, subsection (b) is unclear. Groups are not clear what income security for children would mean? Please define.
At the Delhi’s consultation, it was decided to propagate about the draft Declaration at the village level in India. It is the responsibility of the peasants groups to take this draft to the villages of India and apprise the common peasants about the UNHRC declaration on peasants’ rights.
It was also decided that BKU will soon form a committee and will meet with the officials who will be participating at the UNHRC negotiations on the draft declaration in the coming next round starting from 19th May in Geneva.