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Seed of the crisis

Posted by Ramoo on August 28, 2009

Kavitha Kuruganti

Monday, July 27, 2009 20:42 IST

The US and India are back at it again. This time around, it is not the spectre of a looming famine in Bihar that is expected to kill thousands through starvation but global hunger and malnutrition, for which India and USA will collaborate to provide leadership in agriculture to raise crop yields.

Never mind that India has record buffer stocks of food grains right now and still more people sleep hungry in India than ever before and that India ranks 66th on the Global Hunger Index for 88 countries.

Never mind that intensive agriculture models led to more farmers killing themselves than the projected numbers of starvation before the Green Revolution was ushered in or that Punjab for example, the seat of the Green Revolution in India, is reeling under a severe environmental health crisis quite closely connected to agricultural technologies deployed in the name of increasing yields.

The first time around, they said that they were trying to get away from the ship to mouth existence that is being imposed by the Americans on us through PL 480 food aid programmes — and whose help did they take to get away from the American intrusions? The Americans themselves!

It is interesting to see how American leaders make it a point to include agriculture into their agenda during their India visits. George W Bush decided to stop over at the agriculture university in Hyderabad and Hillary Clinton at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pusa. For a country which has only 1.9 per cent of its labour force working in agriculture and a mere 0.7 per cent of total GDP contributed by agriculture (2002), why this American interest in Indian agriculture?

The answer possibly lies in potential huge markets held in the seeds and food processing sectors. In India, this market is emerging in an impressive fashion. In the global seed market estimated at $30 bn, India already has a large market worth $1 bn. The domestic seed market, especially of hybrid seeds, is expected to grow at an impressive growth rate of 13 per cent at least. In the food processing and retail sector, the Indian urban food market is expected to form a major chunk of the $50-bn-mark retail market in India in the near future.

Clinton’s speech at Pusa Institute made a clear mention of seeds and food processing as the sectors where investment will go. Interestingly, the second green revolution in this country, with the help of the Indo-US Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture (KIA) is supposed to be ushered in under the guidance of corporations like Monsanto and Wal-Mart which are on the KIA board. How investment on food processing would increase productivity of our food grains is an unanswered question, of course.

There is also mention of “cutting edge technologies” to raise crop yields and Clinton affirmed with authority that crop productivity was the ‘root’ of the problem of world hunger.

No mention at all of food lands going for bio-fuels, no mention about food grains being used for cattle feed and building inefficient food chains, no mention of the shocking wastage of food in the developed world not at the grain level but of processed foods, which would have already consumed much energy in their processing and packaging.

Nor any mention of overflowing granaries in India continuing to mock at the poor in the country who cannot access such food.

While Clinton is reported to have avoided the use of “GM” as the frontier tec

hnology, given the vast controversy over it, our agriculture minister was more forthright. He opined that collaboration in frontier areas like biotechnology would make a significant contribution to the world!

What our leaders don’t seem to realise is that there are vast differences not just in conditions of farming in the USA and in India but in the very philosophies and outlook towards agriculture. India for instance opposes patents on life forms in international forums while the USA and its corporations seek to patent everything that they can.

The rigid patent regimes in the USA have led to hundreds of farmers sued and/or jailed for doing something that they have done for millennia — saving their seed! Who is India listening to, on world hunger and the way out?

It would be extremely unwise for our leaders to provide ready platforms and markets for profit-hungry US corporations in the name of food crisis, world hunger, second green revolution and climate change.

If the government is keen on tackling the food crisis, it would do well to evolve a deeper understanding of both food production and access related issues, take up a comprehensive analysis of the Green Revolution and then chart out an Indian course of action. In this hundredth year of “Hind Swaraj”, our modern day leaders would do well to revisit Gandhiji’s vision.

Posted in Agri-Science, Indo US Knowledge Initiative, Opinion pieces, Policies | Leave a Comment »

At Farm’s hand

Posted by Ramoo on March 17, 2009

At farm’s hand

An assured income for farmers will make agriculture viable and ensure food security
In his budget speech finance minister Pranab Mukherjee claimed that agriculture, services, manufacturing along with trade and construction were drivers of the country’s growth in the past few years. But actually agriculture should not be slotted in the same bracket as manufacturing and services. Agricultural growth averaged 2.5 per cent in the past five years. This pales in comparison to the 10 per cent growth achieved by manufacturing and services in the same period.
Agriculture, in fact, touched a terrible low between 1997 and 2008 with 182,936 farmers committing suicide—according to government records. The returns from agriculture are paltry in comparison to other vocations. Let us consider some figures. Between 1997 and 2007, salaries of government employees increased by over 150 per cent—we are not even looking at the hikes proposed by the sixth pay commission and the earnings of our mlas increased by 500 per cent, but the farmer could manage only a 25 per cent increase in the prices of his produce. Prices of non-agricultural commodities, meanwhile, shot up by 300-600 per cent. The prices of agricultural inputs went up by 400 per cent.
This disparity has struck the farmer hard. The Arjun Sengupta committee on the unorganized sector reckons that an average Indian farmer’s monthly income is Rs 2,115 while his expenditure is Rs 2,770 every month.
Successive governments have tried to keep agricultural prices low to ensure cheap labour—the rationale being that cheap food will make labour cheap. But the farmer’s bill on other inputs has gone spiralling. The minimum support prices do not ensure a fair return to the farmer who has to spend a fortune on hybrid seeds, GM crops and new generation pesticides. And in any case, the government announces msps for only 33 agricultural commodities and intervenes in market operations only for rice and wheat. So farmers growing other crops are left to the mercy of markets.
The National Commission on Farmers has stated the government should ensure farmers earn a “minimum net income”, and also make sure that agricultural progress be measured by the increase in that income. It should appoint a statutory body—a Farmers Income Commission—to examine the real income of farmers every year across the state.
The government should ensure remunerative prices for agricultural produce. The prices for agricultural commodities should be based on the real cost of production and linked with inflation. msps should be announced before the beginning of each crop season and procurement must be timely.
Today agricultural workers don’t find employment and at the same time farmers cannot afford to pay for labour. The government should provide input subsidy in the form of labour wages (up to 100 days in a calendar year) to farmers to monetize family labour or to pay other farm labourers. This subsidy should include all agricultural operations from sowing to harvesting. It can be operationalized on similar lines as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme, or by extending the scheme to agricultural work. This will also help agricultural workers.
The net income of farmers can be increased by promoting post-harvest oerations at the village level. Agriculture-centered small scale industry can give the rural economy a boost
But these measures will only help partially. It is essential to provide direct cash payment to make up for the shortfall. All cultivators should be given fixed cash support to ensure them a fair living standard. This could be set at Rs 15,000 per family and revised every year by the commission.
If we consider the 9 crore farmer families in the country, the government’s annual expenditure on this support will come to Rs 1.35 lakh crores. If we add the labour wage support, the government’s subsidy bill will go up by another 1 lakh crores. But by spending Rs 2.35 lakh crores, the government can extricate more than 50 per cent of people from the below poverty line trap.

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G V Ramanjaneyulu is with Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Hyderabad. He can be reached at

Posted in Economix, Opinion pieces, Policies | 1 Comment »

The suicide economy of corporate globalisation

Posted by Ramoo on March 22, 2007

By Vandana Shiva

05 April, 2004

The Indian peasantry, the largest body of surviving small farmers in the world, today faces a crisis of extinction.

Two thirds of India makes its living from the land. The earth is the most generous employer in this country of a billion, that has farmed this land for more than 5000 years.

However, as farming is delinked from the earth, the soil, the biodiversity, and the climate, and linked to global corporations and global markets, and the generosity of the earth is replaced by the greed of corporations, the viability of small farmers and small farms is destroyed. Farmers suicides are the most tragic and dramatic symptom of the crisis of survival faced by Indian peasants.

1997 witnessed the first emergence of farm suicides in India. A rapid increase in indebtedness, was at the root of farmers taking their lives. Debt is a reflection of a negative economy, a loosing economy. Two factors have transformed the positive economy of agriculture into a negative economy for peasants – the rising costs of production and the falling prices of farm commodities. Both these factors are rooted in the policies of trade liberalization and corporate globalisation.

In 1998, the World Bank’s structural adjustment policies forced India to open up its seed sector to global corporations like Cargill, Monsanto, and Syngenta. The global corporations changed the input economy overnight. Farm saved seeds were replaced by corporate seeds which needed fertilizers and pesticides and could not be saved.

As seed saving is prevented by patents as well as by the engineering of seeds with non-renewable traits, seed has to be bought for every planting season by poor peasants. A free resource available on farms became a commodity which farmers were forced to buy every year. This increases poverty and leads to indebtedness.

As debts increase and become unpayable, farmers are compelled to sell kidneys or even commit suicide. More than 25,000 peasants in India have taken their lives since 1997 when the practice of seed saving was transformed under globalisation pressures and multinational seed corporations started to take control of the seed supply. Seed saving gives farmers life. Seed monopolies rob farmers of life.

The shift from farm saved seed to corporate monopolies of the seed supply is also a shift from biodiversity to monocultures in agriculture. The District of Warangal in Andhra Pradesh used to grow diverse legumes, millets, and oilseeds. Seed monopolies created crop monocultures of cotton, leading to disappearance of millions of products of nature’s evolution and farmer’s breeding.

Monocultures and uniformity increase the risks of crop failure as diverse seeds adapted to diverse ecosystems are replaced by rushed introduction of unadapted and often untested seeds into the market. When Monsanto first introduced Bt Cotton in India in 2002, the farmers lost Rs. 1 billion due to crop failure. Instead of 1,500 Kg / acre as promised by the company, the harvest was as low as 200 kg. Instead of increased incomes of Rs. 10,000 / acre, farmers ran into losses of Rs. 6400 / acre.

In the state of Bihar, when farm saved corn seed was displaced by Monsanto’s hybrid corn, the entire crop failed creating Rs. 4 billion losses and increased poverty for already desperately poor farmers. Poor peasants of the South cannot survive seed monopolies.

And the crisis of suicides shows how the survival of small farmers is incompatible with the seed monopolies of global corporations.

The second pressure Indian farmers are facing is the dramatic fall in prices of farm produce as a result of free trade policies of the W.T.O. The WTO rules for trade in agriculture are essentially rules for dumping. They have allowed an increase in agribusiness subsidies while preventing countries from protecting their farmers from the dumping of artificially cheap produce.

High subsidies of $ 400 billion combined with forced removal of import restrictions is a ready-made recipe for farmer suicides. Global prices have dropped from $ 216 / ton in 1995 to $ 133 / ton in 2001 for wheat, $ 98.2 / ton in 1995 to $ 49.1 / ton in 2001 for cotton, $ 273 / ton in 1995 to $ 178 / ton for soyabean. This reduction to half the price is not due to a doubling in productivity but due to an increase in subsidies and an increase in market monopolies controlled by a handful of agribusiness corporations.

Thus the U.S government pays $ 193 per ton to US Soya farmers, which artificially lowers the rice of soya. Due to removal of Quantitative Restrictions and lowering of tariffs, cheap soya has destroyed the livelihoods of coconut growers, mustard farmers, producers of sesame, groundnut and soya.

Similarly, 25000 cotton producers in the U.S are given a subsidy of $ 4 billion annually. This has brought cotton prices down artificially, allowing the U.S to capture world markets which were earlier accessible to poor African countries such as Burkina, Faso, Benin, Mali. The subsidy of $ 230 per acre in the U.S is genocidal for the African farmers. African cotton farmers are loosing $ 250 million every year. That is why small African countries walked out of the Cancun negotiations, leading to the collapse of the W.T.O ministerial.

The rigged prices of globally traded agriculture commodities are stealing incomes from poor peasants of the south. Analysis carried out by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology shows that due to falling farm prices, Indian peasants are loosing $ 26 billion or Rs. 1.2 trillion annually. This is a burden their poverty does not allow them to bear. Hence the epidemic of farmer suicides.

India was among the countries that questioned the unfair rules of W.T.O in agriculture and led the G-22 alliance along with with Brazil and China. India with other southern countries addressed the need to safeguard the livelihoods of small farmers from the injustice of free trade based on high subsidies and dumping. Yet at the domestic level, official agencies in India are in deep denial of any links between free trade and farmers survival.

An example of this denial is a Government of Karnataka report on “Farmers suicide in Karnataka – A scientific analysis”. The report while claiming to be “scientific”, makes unscientific reductionist claims that the farm suicides have only psychological causes, not economic ones, and identifies alcoholism as the root cause of suicides. Therefore, instead of proposing changes in agricultural policy, the report recommends that farmers be required to boost up their self respect (swabhiman) and self-reliance (swavalambam).

And ironically, its recommendations for farmer self-reliance are changes in the Karnataka Land Reforms Act to allow larger land holdings and leasing. These are steps towards the further decimation of small farmers who have been protected by land “ceilings” (an upper limit on land ownership) and policies that only allow peasants and agriculturalists to own agricultural land (part of the land to the tiller policies of the Devraj Urs government).

While the “expert committee” report identified “alcoholism” as the main cause for suicides, the figures of this “scientific” claim are inconsistent and do not reflect the survey. On page 10, the report states in one place that 68 percent of the suicide victims were alcoholics. Five lines later it states that 17 percent were “alcohol and illicit drinkers”.

It also states that the majority of suicide victims were small and marginal farmers and the majority had high levels of indebtedness. Yet debt is not identified as a factor leading to suicide. On page 32 of the report it is stated that of the 105 cases studied among the 3544 suicides which had occurred in five districts during 2000 – 2001, 93 had debts, 54 percent had borrowed from private sources and money lenders.

More than 90% of suicide victims were in debt. Yet a table on page 63 has mysteriously reduced debt as a reason for suicide to 2.6%, and equally mysteriously, “suicide victims having a bad habit” has emerged as the primary cause of farmers suicides.

The government is desperate to delink farm suicides from economic processes linked to globalisation such as rise in indebtedness and increased frequency of crop failure due to higher ecologic vulnerability arising from climate change and drought and higher economic risks due to introduction of untested, unadopted seeds.

This is evident in recommendation no. “The government should launch prosecution on the responsible persons involved in misleading the public and government by providing false information about farmers suicide as crop failure or indebtedness” (page 113 of expert committee report).

However, farmers suicides cannot be delinked from indebtedness and the economic distress small farmers are facing. Indebtedness is not new. Farmers have always organised for freedom from debt.

In the nineteenth century the so call “Deccan Riots” were farmers protests against the debt trap into which they had been pushed to supply cheap cotton to the textile mills in Britain. In the eighties they formed peasant organisations to fight for debt relief from public debt linked to Green Revolution inputs.

However, under globalisation, the farmer is loosing her / his social, cultural, economic identity as a producer. A farmer is now a “consumer” of costly seeds and costly chemicals sold by powerful global corporations through powerful landlords and money lenders locally.

This combination is leading to corporate feudalism, the most inhumane, brutal and exploitative convergence of global corporate capitalism and local feudalism, in the face of which the farmer as an individual victim feels helpless. The bureaucratic and technocratic systems of the state are coming to the rescue of the dominant economic interests by blaming the victim.

It is necessary to stop this war against small farmers. It is necessary to re-write the rules of trade in agriculture. It is necessary to change our paradigms of food production. Feeding humanity should not depend on the extinction of farmers and extinction of species. Another agriculture is possible and necessary – an agriculture that protects farmers livelihoods, the earth and its biodiversity and public health.

Posted in Farmers Suicides, Globalisation, Policies | 1 Comment »

Govt. changes SEZ rehab rules, onus on developer to provide as per state policy

Posted by Ramoo on March 22, 2007


Vikas Dhoot

New Delhi, March 21: With the government still to give final shape to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s promise of a ‘humane’ National Relief and Rehabilitation policy for the project-affected, the Commerce Ministry today notified changes in rules for special economic zones, making SEZ developers solely responsible for rehabilitation of displaced persons, indicating that state governments should steer clear of acquiring land on behalf of developers.

The notification, issued ahead of a meeting of UPA and Left leaders called by the PM, stated “the developer shall make adequate provision for rehabilitation of displaced persons as per the relief and rehabilitation policy of the state government”.

To allay fears of real estate grabbing in the name of SEZs, the Commerce Ministry has also reduced the validity of ‘in-principle’ approvals from three years to one year. This should keep out ‘speculative’ developers and ensure that developers acquire the requisite land and make good their investment promises as soon as possible or risk losing their approvals altogether.

The validity for formal approval, however, remains three years as it’s not possible for a developer to get formal approval unless the land acquisition and other formalities with the state governments are complete within a year of getting an in-principle nod from the Board of Approvals.

Posted in Displacement, Policies, SEZs | Leave a Comment »

India’s role key to break the Doha deadlock: Lamy

Posted by Ramoo on March 17, 2007
Posted online: Tuesday, March 13, 2007 at 0000 hours IST
NEW DELHI, MAR 12 :  WTO director-general Pascal Lamy on Monday criticised the slow progress of the Doha Round of talks and called for speeding up the process to achieve a breakthrough by June. India can help in breaking the ice, Lamy said.

Lamy, who was here to participate in a seminar on the Doha Round said, “Time is not on our side and many members of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are becoming impatient. The multilateral process of negotiations must therefore begin at full speed and chairpersons of various negotiation groups must come in centrestage.”
“We need to speed up the process to grasp the opportunity, which closes in June, with the expiry of the US Trade Promotion Authority,” Lamy added.

Lamy, however, said, at present, political leaders were focussing to get a breakthrough since they realised the cost of failure would be “absolutely huge”. Meanwhile, around 200 protestors from farmers’ groups, including Bharat Krishak Samaj (BKS), Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) and NGOs Housing Rights Association, Peoples Campaign for Justice and Sovereignty, Youth for Justice and Slum Dwellers Association, gathered outside the venue and demanded to be heard. “We do not want a bad deal at any cost,” they said. Vandana Shiva of Navdanya questioned why no farmers’ leader was invited at the seminar.

“I was informed that some progress has been made in testing hypothesis, approaches and formulae last week in bilateral contacts between the US, EU, Brazil and India” Lamy said during his speech. On agriculture, Lamy said WTO members have agreed that this Round has to deliver effective cuts in trade-distorting farm subsidies in developed countries

Posted in Globalisation, Policies | Leave a Comment »

SEZ policy should be scrapped

Posted by Ramoo on March 16, 2007…



MUMBAI: The Manmohan Singh government should scrap its SEZ policy as many lacunas in it have been exposed, the threat to food security being just one, says BJP MP Kashiram Rana, also the convenor of the parliamentary committee on SEZs.
In an exclusive interview to ET, a day after 15 lives were lost in Nandigram, West Bengal, in a protest against a chemical hub in the region, the BJP leader from Gujarat lashed out at the Centre’s obsession for SEZs. His views assume significance because as head of the Parliamentary panel he had recently toured Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Kerala, Orissa and Karnataka, where many SEZs are coming up.
In Mumbai last month, Mr Rana minced no words criticising the Vilasrao Deshmukh government for being “hand-in-glove with SEZ developers”. The committee will submit its report to Parliament in the current session.
“Time has come for the government, and particularly the Group of Ministers led by defence minister Pranab Mukherjee to revisit the whole issue. Considering the developments across the country, the existing policy needs to be scrapped,” he said. When pointed out that the SEZ idea had been his party’s (the BJP) creation, Mr Rana said it was more balanced than the current policy.
“We had a clear idea of core and non-core business activities that would be allowed in SEZ territories. And most importantly we never wanted agriculture land to be used for these zones,” he said.
According to Mr Rana, the most important changes the current policy needs pertains to use of agriculture land for SEZs. “The policy allows single crop land for SEZs.
But even in single crop land, farmers carry out lot of allied activities such as growing seasonal fruits or horticulture. How can one measure the farmers’ losses?” he asked and went on to suggest that there should be a blanket ban on using such land for SEZs.
However, he is not against SEZs. “I’m not against these zones. But my point is that there is enough barren, unused or waste land available in the country. Why not make such land open for SEZs,” he said. Mr Rana is also concerned about India’s food security.
“Our agricultural production has been falling drastically. It’s a matter of serious concern. Preventing use of agriculture land for industrialisation could be one way of arresting this decline,” Mr Rana feels.

Posted in Displacement, Policies, SEZs | Leave a Comment »

The horror comes through

Posted by Ramoo on March 15, 2007

Tavleen Singh

Thursday, March 15, 2007 11:23:19 IST…

Thousands of crore rupees of taxpayers money is being wasted on a public distribution system for the poor that serves not to alleviate poverty but to enrich corrupt officials

Every now and then the horror that is India gets exposed from under the shining statistics that tell us that at over 9% annually we are the second fastest growing economy in the world and on the verge of becoming the world’s next economic superpower. Last week the horror came through in two unrelated stories.
First, we had the Minister of Agriculture, Sharad Pawar, admit in Parliament that all the wheat that the government sends to our Northeastern states through the Public Distribution System (PDS) is stolen. ‘Up to 100% of the wheat in six of the eight North-Eastern states is being diverted from PDS’, he said. After marveling at the frankness of this admission let us examine its implications. What it means is that thousands of crore rupees of  taxpayers money is being wasted on a public distribution system for the poor  that serves not to alleviate poverty but to enrich corrupt officials. As someone who has long argued that all anti-poverty programmes must be scrapped and reinvented from scratch I feel sadly vindicated by the Minister’s admission but would he like to now tell us why we continue with a programme that should have been modified decades ago.

A country of desperate shortages
At the time when the public distribution system was invented India was a country of desperate shortages.  The fifties, sixties and even the seventies were a time when there was always something in short supply. At festival time sugar and milk was rationed because there was never enough and at other times there would be a shortage of rice or wheat or something else or other so the government in its socialist wisdom created a system of ration cards and ration shops where your card could give you at least a minimum amount of whatever it was that you needed. Even then the system should have been designed to help only those who were too poor to pay market prices but today does it make any sense to have a PDS that includes rich and poor? It is an absurdity that we still need ration cards to prove domicile and identity and yet the system continues.
What is worse is that even when we know that our anti-poverty Programmes leak like sieves we continue to invent new ones. This government has given us the massive, unwieldy rural employment guarantee scheme.  It is supposed to guarantee a hundred days of employment to the desperately poor which is a sweet, thoughtful idea but as someone who has met those who get fifteen days of work a month may I confirm that the scheme will serve mostly to keep the poor desperately poor forever because what it amounts to is providing about Rs 10 a day for a family to live on. Having been in the homes of families who live on that much money I can assure you that even by India’s abysmal standards that is about as poor as it is possible to be. In Maharashtra’s Nandurbar district where children die routinely of what we like to call ‘malnutrition’ it is in families living on Rs 10 a day that these deaths occur. Yet, we are spending more than Rs 40,000 crores on the ruralemployment guarantee scheme.
The second horror story from last week relates to children. We also Spend thousands of crores on the welfare of children living below the poverty line through such well-intentioned schemes as the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) yet, according to a story in the Asian Age newspaper, Adivasis in Andhra Pradesh kill baby girls on a daily basis by starving newborns to death because they fear future dowry problems.  The story comes from a village called Parigi in Ranga Reddy district, just eighty kilometers from Hyderabad, where Lambada tribals admit that when baby girls are born their mothers refuse to feed them so that they die slowly and painfully of starvation.

What kind of peopleare we?
It sometimes takes two days for a baby to cry itself to death, then her little body is buried in dirt graves in the fields. Sometimes dogs dig the graves up and eat the bodies.  What kind of
monsters must their mothers be to be able to do endure this? And, how is it that schemes like ICDS do not reach villages that are less than a hundred kilometers away from the capital  of one of India’s more progressive states? What was Chandrababu Naidu doing in the days when he was regarded as one of India’s best chief ministers and what does Andhra’s Congress chief minister have to say about the Asian Age story?
Sonia Gandhi never loses a chance to tell the country how concerned she is about the
‘aam aadmi’ yet infanticide continues to exist in a state ruled by her own party and she
does nothing.
The shame, though, is not just hers it is ours. What kind of peopleare we that we remain unaffected by the horrors of India? What kind of people are we that we do not demand some answers from governments that claim to rule in  the name of the poorest of the poor? The only way forward is for all anti-poverty schemes to be scrapped so that they can be reinvented for thetruly needy and not for all of us.

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Save Doha WTO seminar evokes farmers protests

Posted by Ramoo on March 13, 2007


12 March 2007, New Delhi

An International seminar organized by the Commerce Ministry of India under the banner of ‘Saving Doha and Delivering on Development’ evoked protests from several groups including farmers, students unions and civil society organisations. As ministers, corporate lobbyists, academicians and bureaucrats met in the expensive Maurya Sheraton hotel in New Delhi, hundreds of activists congregated outside the hotel demanding their voices be heard. Reports indicate that 200 activists have been arrested and detained at the nearby Chanakya Puri police station. Those arrested include activists from the Bharatiya Kisan Union, Housing Rights Association, Peoples Campaign for Justice and Sovereignty, Youth for Justice and Slum Dwellers Association.

The meeting was co-organised along with groups such as UNCTAD, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Oxfam International, National Council for Applied Economic Research and CUTS International. The intention was to identify the key parameters to serve the so called ‘development imperatives’ of the Doha Round.

‘Time is not on our side. The credibility of the WTO is at stake and India is a key player to breaking the deadlock, said WTO Director General Pascal Lamy. WTO talks commenced in February 2007 after the July 2006 collapse.

Commerce Minister Kamal Nath in his opening address stated that India will not be party to an outcome that sustained prosperity in the developed countries at the cost of livelihoods of its farmers. ‘A one size fits all approach was not acceptable and we need a genuine development outcome from the talks, he argued.

‘This is empty rhetoric. A development outcome that meets the needs of small and marginal farmers is impossible within the WTO framework. Studies by the World Bank and Carnegie Foundation show that there are no or minimal gains to developing countries from the conclusion of the Doha Round, said Devinder Sharma from the New Delhi based Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security. These studies indicate that per year gains for all 110 developing countries in the WTO would amount to a total of only 35,000 crore rupees. The insignificance of this amount is evident by the fact that India’s Rural Development Ministry has a budget of 65,000 crore rupees a year. ‘This meeting has completely ignored farmers groups in the country’, said Yudvir Singh of the Bahratiya Kisan Union, speaking from the police station where he was detained by the Delhi police. ‘Pascal Lamy, corporate lobbyists and Commerce Ministry officials are sitting together to sell out Indian agriculture’, said Singh.


For more information contact:

Benny Kuruvilla (Focus on the Global South) – 09820181191, <>,

Bhaskar Goswami (Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security) – 9811191335, <>,

Umi Daniel (Action Aid International) – 09849797773, <>,

Posted in Globalisation, Policies, Policy issues | Leave a Comment »

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.

Posted in Debt burden, Farmers Suicides, Globalisation, Policies | Leave a Comment »

Govt ignoring farmer suicides

Posted by Ramoo on March 9, 2007…

GANDHINAGAR: A senior BJP MLA from Saurashtra, who resigned from the Modi ministry two years ago, has written a scathing letter to the chief minister complaining of as many as seven suicides by farmers in Amreli in the last three months. Bavku Undhad has bemoaned that the state government has not take cognisance of the growing distress in the rural areas.
Undhad wrote the letter a few weeks back, but its details were made known on Wednesday after a verbal duel in the state Assembly with Modi on an issue concerning about his tenure in the government from 2003 to 2005 as youth and culture minister.
Belonging to the rebel camp and the Leuva patel community, to which Modi’s main detractor Keshubhai Patel belongs, Undhad has demanded ‘immediate compensation’ to the farmers.
In the letter Undhad has said that the number of suicide deaths in Saurashtra is much more as many of them are not being reported. In a written reply to his starred question, the government has admitted to 1,508 suicides in the state in 2006 against 600 to 700 on an average each year.
Undhad’s calling attention notice in the state Assembly for discussion on the suicide by Amreli farmers, was rejected. State BJP chief Purshottam Rupala, also from Amreli, however, denied that there were any suicides.
Rebel MLAs, however, asked why the government was refusing to discuss the issue in the House if there was no issue.
Undhad has also listed the farmers who have committed suicide after being heavily in debt. The suicide victims mentioned in the letter are Shambhubhai Khunt of Randal-Davda village had borrowed Rs 4 lakh which he could not pay back; Jagdishbhai Vasoya of Sanadi village was unable to pay back Rs 2 lakh; and Dinesh Lambasia of Khajuri village had a debt of Rs 4 lakh.
Undhad said four others committed suicide by drowning off the Somnath-Veraval coast. They were harassed by the state electricity board officials to pay up Rs 2 lakh for which they took a loan from a local moneylender at high interest which they failed to pay. In the end they owed the moneylender Rs 12 lakh.
In the Assembly, Undhad supported Opposition leader Arjun Modhvadia, who said that Undhad as youth and culture affairs minister had written to Modi that the state’s sportsmen had recommended an increase in stipend from Rs 45 to Rs 75 per day which had not been implemented. “If this is true, this was a violation of oath of secrecy, and action would be taken, if true,” Modi declared.
Undhad shot back later, “If you can pay Rs 500 per dish to the Vibrant Gujarat guests, what’s wrong if I recommended increase in the stipend for sportsmen.
Even Rs 75 isn’t enough.” He denied that his letter to Modi was a violation of oath of secrecy.

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