Indian Agrarian Crisis now moved to

Farmer-the most endangered species

Save small farmers and public health not DOHA

Posted by Ramoo on March 11, 2007…

Statement of Indian People’s Movements against WTO on the “Save Doha” Seminar
The government of India with NGO’s who have been supporting WTO is organizing a seminar on “Saving Doha and Delivering on Development”. The Doha Round of WTO collapsed in Cancun and has been on life support since the Hongkong Ministerial. No progress has been made because more “progress” in trade liberalisation will devastate the lives of millions more than a decade of WTO has already devastated. More than 150,000 farmers have committed suicide in India due to distortions introduced in agriculture as a result of trade liberalisation. Seed monopolies have pushed up he prices of inputs, and market access forced through removal of Quantitative Restrictions (QR’s) has made the prices of farm products collapse. WTO has imposed a suicidal economy on India’s small farmers and peasants who constitute two third of the population.
The G-33 has been struggling to implement the commitments made in WTO to protect small farmers through instruments of Special Products And Special Safeguard Mechanism (SPSSM). The G-33 was to meet in Delhi. The meeting was shifted to Jakarta because the Indian government was reluctant to host it. Instead an anti-Third World, anti-farmers and anti-worker and anti-public health meeting is being organized in Delhi on 12-13th of March to push the corporate agenda of further liberalisation of trade, bypassing the multilateral negotiations where the WTO agenda is being blocked. This meeting has no democratic standing. It has no political legitimacy. It does not represent the will or perspective of the Indian people. It is a desperate attempt by the global corporate powers, and the governments they control to manipulate a “consensus” to “Save Doha”, when citizens access the world and the majority of Third World governments want to save democracy and the rights of people to food and water, jobs and livelihoods, medicine and health. The US government has been repeatedly stating that India must play a role in moving the Doha negotiations. And India is rushing ahead to provide market access to US agribusiness and industry as witnessed in wheat and corn and wine imports and in reduction of duties on industrial products. The US India Knowledge Agreement in Agriculture is effectively a bilateral agreement. On the board of the agreement are Monsanto, and Walmart. Under US pressure, the government of India has already implemented more than the Doha round commitments and have signed the Indo-US MOU on Patents. That is why the Indian government is being used by the US and EU to bulldoze Doha on other countries. And the “Save Doha” seminar is part of this bulldozing.
The bias of the ‘Save Doha” seminar is apparent in terms of who has sponsored it, who is being invited and what will be discussed.
Orchestration of Consensus
The two NGO’s involved have been supporting WTO over the past decade. CUTS initially supported WTO on grounds that trade liberalisation would make food cheaper for consumers. Today, food prices are going through the ceiling in India. The ruling Congress party has recently lost elections in two states, and the Party President, Sonia Gandhi, has admitted that increase in prices of food and essential commodities was the reason behind the electoral defeat. Trade liberalisation translates into falling prices for farmers and rising prices for consumers, with the increasing polarization of prices generating super profits for agribusiness. Further liberalization will deepen the livelihood and food insecurity of the poor. The recent NFHS 3 (National Family Health Survey) has clearly shown increase in malnutrition, anemia and maternal mortality in many parts. The serious public health implications are clear specially for women and children. Over 20% maternal deaths are anemia related
The second NGO involved in organising the seminar to “Save Doha” has been supporting WTO even when the massive people’s movements brought the WTO Ministerial to a halt in Seattle. While farmers’ movements across the world have been mobilising to protect farmers’ lives and livelihoods, as was evident in Seattle, Cancun and Hongkong, Oxfam International has been working to save WTO on terms of the corporate led North. It has been arguing that trade liberalisation serves the interests of Third World farmers even while farmers across Latin America, Africa and Asia are fighting for food sovereignty not for “free trade”. Hundreds of thousands of farmers are being pushed to suicides, and millions are being uprooted from their land and livelihoods to make for global agribusiness, which is the only beneficiary of the WTO rules of Agriculture. Oxfam International blocked a change in these rules after Seattle by supporting the Market Access rules of WTO which would mean unregulated imports, while farmers groups demanded FOOD SOVEREIGNTY. It is now blocking the SPSSM demands of Third World countries by “Saving Doha” instead of the peasants of the South.
If the seminar was committed to Delivering on Development, it would have addressed the agrarian crisis that the globalisation has unleashed on India besides in other parts of the third world. It would have had other farmers leaders like Krishan Bir Chaudhry of Bhartiya Krishan Samaj, Mahendra Singh Tikait of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Kishore Tiwari of Vidharbha Jan Andolan, or Puttaniah of Karnataka Rajya Ryotu Sangha to share their concerns about farmers and their families impacted by WTO led agricultural policies, not Sharad Joshi. Sharad Joshi has been supporting WTO and globalisation of agriculture even while globalisation robs 87 farmers per day of their lives in Vidharbha, Maharashtra, Joshi’s home state. When 100,000 farmers gathered at India’s historic Red Fort in 1994 to caution the government against signing the Dunkel Draft of GATT which lead to the signing of the WTO agreements in Marrakesh, Sharad Joshi was a lone voice supporting WTO. Today, too, his is the only voice talking of “Saving Doha”, while farmers’ movements are talking of “Saving Small Farmers”. This calculated exclusion of the people’s viewpoint and biased selection of issues reflects that a consensus is being orchestrated to protect and promote corporate interest.
This is obvious from the exclusion of TRIPS as the Save Doha seminar does not have any sessions on TRIPS even though the Doha Declaration included a commitment to review TRIPS and a commitment to public health. TRIPS review which was due in 2000 is still pending. The way Dunkel draft was pushed with only take it or leave it option, this exercise is being undertaken to push some corporate led agenda excluding others which are protective of public health and public interest. And this lapse is extremely significant since Novartis is challenging India’s patent laws clauses that provide safe guards for ensuring that affordable generic medicines are available to Indian citizens and citizens worldwide. India is the source of 67% of the World’s low cost generic medicines. The “Save Doha” seminar’s silence on TRIPS is infact support for Novartis, and hence on attack on citizens right to affordable medicines, and the movements fighting to defend peoples’ rights by preventing corporations monopolies. The spirit of Doha Declaration in TRIPS and Public Health is a matter of life and death for millions across the world specially the Third World.
The outcome of this seminar will not be based on a democratic dialogue in society or among the governments of the world. It will be a contrived “consensus” among corporate cronies in governments and among NGOs.
The seminar should not be used to subvert the rights of Third World countries to defend the rights of their peoples’ through democratic negotiations at the multilateral level and democratic policies at the national level. Asia, Caribbean, Pacific and African countries have already expressed unhappiness over how the G-4 – US, EU, Brazil and India – were keeping others out of the process of reviving trade talks. They are worried that the G-4 would present a grand package and offer it as a “fait accompli”. The “Save Doha” Delhi meet driven clearly by the G-4 should not be allowed to be another step in this exclusion of the concerns of the majority.

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