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Friday, November 29, 2013

News article published in Indian media against the WTO conference at Bali

Farmers to picket Mangalore port against WTO conference - The Hindu - Nov 29th 2013

Members of the South Indian Inter-State Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Organisations will stage a protest by picketing the harbour operated by New Mangalore Port Trust in Mangalore on December 3 against the 9th Ministerial conference of World Trade Organisation (WTO) that will be held in Bali in Indonesia, working president of the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) K.T. Gangadhar has said.

The policies of WTO are against the interests of the farmers and below poverty line families in India. A meeting of farmers’ organisations of Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Goa and Maharashtra was held in Bangalore on November 17 and 18 and it decided to stage protest against WTO Ministerial conference. More than 2,500 farmers will take part in the protest, Mr. Gangadhar told presspersons here on Thursday.

India has recently passed Food Security Bill which guarantees foodgrains at subsidised prices for the poor families. India also procures foodgrains under minimum support price (MSP) from the farmers when there is fall in the price of agricultural produce. The food grains procured at MSP are distributed among the poor families at subsidised prices through the food security programmes. The cap imposed by WTO on its member nations on offering food subsidies and extending MSPs are unscientific, he said.

When the agriculture subsidy in the member nation crosses the permissible limit, WTO can impose fine. Under the Food Security Bill, India will provide 5 kilo subsidised foodgrains for 67 per cent of its population. If the Act is fully implemented, the cap on food subsidy offered by WTO will be breached. Prior to the Bali conference, WTO is pressuring India to withdraw the Food Security Bill passed by the Parliament and thereby has insulted the sovereignty of the nation, he said.

As per the direction of WTO, India has lifted quantitative restrictions on import of agricultural produce due to which there was a sharp in the price of foodgrains grown by the farmers here. The import of sugar, silk, pulses and milk powder at cheap price that has harmed the interests of the farmers here should be stopped immediately, he said.

The farmers will also take out a protest march from the railway station in Mangalore city at 11 a.m. to the Mangalore port, he said. Functionaries of KRRS Yashwanth Rao and D.V. Veeresh, Umapathi were present in the press conference.

  • Ninth Ministerial Conference of WTO will be held in Indonesia from December 3 to 6.

  • ‘The policies of WTO are against the interests of the farmers and BPL families in India’

  • Thursday, November 28, 2013

    What every Indian should know about the World Trade Organization

    As the leaders of the world gear up for the 9th Minesterial of the World Trade Organization (WTO) at Bali, small farmers and peasants across the world await the outcome with heavy hearts. They are convinced that the horror unleashed by the WTO since its inception in 1995 was going to multiply manifold. The extreme apathy of the developed world towards the hunger and suffering of the developing and least developed countries (LDCs) has never been more evident. For the insatiable profit of a few giant multinational corporations (MNCs), the Global North is about to sacrifice the livelihood of every poor family in the South.

    The governments of developing countries are being arm-twisted into agreeing to one-sided policies and agreements, fooled by the carrot of development being dangled yet again by the First world. It is now an indisputable fact that poverty and income inequality have only increased since neoliberalistic policies made their way into the Third World. Mainstream media being controlled by politicians and big corporations are determined to keep the public in the dark about the devious WTO policies which have killed more than 3 lakh farmers till date. Hence it is up to civil society and farmers’ groups to prevent the 9th Ministerial from sounding the death knell to small farmers and the economically weaker sections of society.

    The South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (SICCFM) is spearheading the fight against the WTO’s biased policies, in South India. They arranged a Round Table of all the farmers’ unions in South India and invited representatives from two important organizations, Focus on the Global South, a think-tank in New Delhi working to secure just and equitable policies for the South, and GRAIN, an international farmers’ movement fighting against the atrocities committed by large agribusinesses on small farmers and peasants.

    Kannaiyan, secretary of the SICCFM briefing the gathering

    Afsar Jafri, Senior Research Associate with Focus on the Global South threw light on a few crucial issues. The WTO’s importance had waned in the first decade of this century because there were nil benefits for developing countries. Since the economic crisis of 2008 which plunged the rich world into depression, their companies are looking towards emerging economies to maintain their exponential rates of growth. There is a new push for free trade agreements which will allow MNCs from a few rich economies to sell their government subsidized products cheaply in the international market. Developing countries and LDCs cannot afford to provide even a fraction of this subsidy to their farmers, leading to higher pricing and hence no buyers of their produce, pushing them into debt. Yet developed countries claim their subsidies are not trade-distorting, and instead want developing countries to reduce their already minimal subsidies and import tariffs, to facilitate dumping.

    Afsar Jafri explaining the grave consequences of the 9th Minesterial of the WTO

    Why should Indians be especially interested in the 9th Minesterial at Bali? Certain countries in the WTO, especially USA is threatening to sue India if we implement the National Food Security Act (NFSA). Under existing WTO rules which are inherently in favour of developed countries, India is allowed a de minimus subsidy of 10% of the total value of its food production. With the NFSA, India will cross this limit. In order to allow implementation of the NFSA, the WTO wants India to accede to two conditions: the first is Trade Facilitation i.e. modernization of all our ports to allow for the easy and hassle-free entry of foreign goods. This will cost a substantial sum for which India needs technical and monetary support; the developed countries refuse to give any. The second condition is the Peace Clause. Under this deceptively named clause, India will not be allowed to sue any country if their company violates Indian laws. This clearly negates India’s sovereignty and we must vehemently oppose both these conditions.

    The other option the WTO gives India to cut its agricultural subsidy is the reduction in the Minimum Support Price (MSP) given to our farmers. A few countries with vested corporate interests claim it will allow our farmers to sell their produce more cheaply in the international market. In reality, the MSP is in fact minimal and many times, does not even cover the cost of production. It is the minimum guarantee that a farmer can get for investing his life into his crop, withstanding the vagaries of the market and nature. Most importantly, this amount remains a miniscule fraction of the bounty showered by developed countries on their farmers who make up less than 5% of their population. If India agrees to this, it will have to construct a mass grave to accommodate the lakhs of farmers’ bodies which will make their way there. The WTO and its agribusiness giants will then pretend these farmers never existed on the face of this Earth. Indeed, for farmers in developing countries, WTO could stand for World Terror Organization.

    Farmers and student activists listen intently

    If the threats associated with implementing our NFSA are bad enough, the Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) being discussed on a number of products will ensure the small farmer has nowhere to go but the mass grave. Kartini Samon, a senior activist from GRAIN enlightened the audience at the Round Table about the new FTA between the European Union and India which will allow free entry of European dairy products into India. It is well known that the EU generously subsidizes its dairy industry. With the new FTA, they will flood India with cheap milk and dairy products, cheaper than what our local milk cooperatives are offering.
    The EU’s big dairy companies will acquire land, set up their own farms to source their milk. This will affect more than 70 million families in India who practice dairy farming for their livelihoods. The 93,000 local cooperatives which collect milk from small dairy farmers and sell it to towns and cities will become bankrupt with no hope of a bail-out. The milk that we get from our local farmers is not only fresh but also environment friendly due to the very low transport related carbon emissions. With climate change induced cyclones and typhoons wrecking havoc in many parts of the world, these giant MNCs will only exacerbate the crisis.

    Since the economic reforms in the early 90s, hundreds of thousands of farmers have committed suicide because of the government’s exclusive preference for industrialization. The upcoming WTO Minesterial conference at Bali could kill many many more. Urban India needs to realize we cannot exist without our farmers who provide our most basic necessity – food. Patriotism goes beyond supporting India in a cricket match. If we do not come out of our cubicles to support our farmers, we will in effect become Resident Non-Indians. Since your voice carries more power than the farmer’s, please raise it against this impending genocide. You will not see these issues highlighted in mainstream media. Care searching on the internet and you will gather that genocide is what it is.

    Join the protest by SICCFM in Mangalore on 3rd Dec 2013 to protect your farmers and the food they grow for you.

    -Pannaga Prasad
    Media relations