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Sunday, October 27, 2019

Peasants and Small scale food producers in India intensify their protest against RCEP free trade agreement

Peasant movements carry out coordinated demonstrations outside several district headquarters across India.

On 24th October and thereafter, thousands of farmers organized under the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movement (ICCFM) and ally groups carried out coordinated actions and demonstrations outside several district administrative headquarters in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Kerala. Farmers union staged coordinated protests across more than 50 places in the country demanding the Central government to keep agriculture produce and dairy sector out of the purview of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact.

Through these joint actions, they were registering their protest against the Union Government’s decision to sign onto RCEP – the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement – a trade deal involving India and 15 other nations in the Asia Pacific. 

RCEP is touted as the world’s biggest trade deal and farmers in India point out that its an agreement shrouded in secrecy, despite threatening to impact the country’s dairy sector and the autonomy that the farmers have over seeds. They allege that while the Indian government, held consultations with several Corporate bodies to allay their concerns, it has held no negotiations with any of the farmer’s representatives so far. 

Over the last week, several state governments and opposition parties in India have also held press conferences and public meetings rejecting RCEP and urging the Union Government to safeguard the interests of India’s farmers and rural workers before opening up the country to further competition from ASEAN countries as well as big economies like China, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. 

“As the date for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit to Bangkok draws near – he is expected to be in the Thailand capital on November 4 –  the objective of his planned trip to the Asian country has left the agrarian community, the dairy farmers in particular, a worried lot,” Times of India reported from Mysuru. 

“In a bid to urge PM Modi to back out of RCEP, hundreds of farmers, activists and many prominent personalities took out a rally from Ramaswamy Cricle to the deputy commissioner’s office in the city on Thursday. On reaching the destination of their rally – the DC’s office – the protesters sat in front of the heritage structure and raised slogans condemning the central government and PM Modi. The protesters then proceeded to submit a memorandum to the DC, wherein they have asked the Centre not to go ahead with the RCEP agreement.”, the report added. 

Several actions took place across Karnataka, organised by the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) in Mandya, Shimoga, Hassan, Kolar, Chikkaballapura, Chamarajanagar, Ramanagar, Belagavi, Chitradurga, Madikeri, Haveri, Tumkur, Raichur, Bellary, Gulbarga, Bijapura, Gadag, Yadagiri and Yelanduru and many other taluk headquarters. Here below, is a glimpse of the actions from around the state. 

Expressing apprehension that the RCEP pact would result in import of agriculture produces at cheap prices, leaders of KRRS said that this would pave way for decline in the demand for locally grown agriculture produces and a slump in their prices. When the country has attained self-sufficiency in production of foodgrains, opening the Indian market for import of agriculture produces is an absurd and illogical move, the protesters said according to this report in The Hindu.  In the past, the price of arecanut and other plantation crops had declined owing to cheap imports under various free trade pacts. The arecanut growers are staring at a similar slump in the price owing to the RCEP pact, said KT Gangadhar, senior president of KRRS. 

Addressing the public gathering in Hassan, KM Rajegowda, senior leader of KRRS noted that, when  country has attained self-sufficiency in the production of foodgrains, opening the Indian market for import of agriculture produces under RCEP will be suicidal for Indian farmers.

“It’s okay if the Prime Minister doesn’t listen to us. But he should at least listen to what the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, an affiliate of the RSS, is saying about the Free Trade Agreement. It [the manch] has termed the government’s step suicidal and that no government has taken such a step post-Independence,” said the noted writer Devanur Mahadeva, while addressing farmers, who held a protest rally against the RCEP agreement in Mysuru. Mr. Mahadeva said eradication of poverty does not mean the elimination of the poor. “If the agreement is signed, it will be like pushing the poor to death", reported The Hindu

In Andhra Pradesh, the Prakasam district units of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, Andhra Pradesh Raitu Sangham and Development Organization for Socio-Economic Change in Prakasam district organized a conference to discuss the effects of India joining the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), in Ongole on Thursday, reported The Hans India.

Farmers owing allegiance to various constituent organisations of the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) staged a dharna in Khammam demanding that the State government immediately convey its opposition to any move by the Centre to join the RCEP in writing to avert a major threat to the farming community and safeguard the interests of farmers in Telangana and elsewhere in the country, reported The Hindu.

 Protests took place at Jayashankar, Narayanpet, Rangareddy, Warangal Rural, Wanaparthi,  Mulugu, Nizamabad, Adilabad, Yadadri Bhuvanagiri, Nirmal, Sangareddy, Vijayawada and Hyderabad - organized by AIKSCC groups of Telangana/AP.

The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) Lakhowal on Thursday staged a protest outside the District Administrative Complex in Bathinda, Punjab. Later, a memorandum of their demands was submitted to the Deputy Commissioner, reported Tribune

They held the protest in response to a call given by the BKU national high command to give memorandums across the country in protest against the Narendra Modi-led Central Government, the report added.

Across Uttar Pradesh, in Muzzafarnagar, Rampur, Amroha, Shamli, Kanauj, Fatehpur, Unnao, Faizabad, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Noida, Bijnor, and Lucknow, the Bhartiya Kisan Union organized several demonstrations against RCEP. 

Across Madhya Pradesh, Bharatiya Kisan Union organized demonstrations at Ratlam, Khatarpur, Hoshangabhad, Satna, Sagar, Indore, Rajghad, Agar Malwa, Damoh, Seoni, Annupur and other places.

In Tamil Nadu, farmers who are organsied under the Tamil Vivasaigal Sangam (TVS), held a large demonstration opposing RCEP. 

Events were held in Haryana too right after the election results were out, in Jind, Karnal etc.

List of places where action against RCEP was carried out on 24/25:
Karnataka : Mysore, Mandya, Shimoga, Hassan, Kolar, Chikkaballapura, Chamarajanagar, Ramanagar, Belagavi, Chitradurga, Madikeri, Haveri, Tumkur, Raichur, Bellary, Gulbarga, Bijapura, Gadag, Yadagiri and Yelanduru and many other taluk headquarters

Tamil Nadu : Coimbatore(public demonstration and press meet), Chennai (a delegation submitted memorandum to agriculture minister), Nagapattinam, Madurai

Uttar Pradesh:  Rampur, Amroha, Muzzafarnagar, Shamli, Kanauj, Fatehpur, Unnao, Faizabad, Kanpur, Ghaziabad, Noida, Bijnor, Lucknow and many other places

Madhya Pradesh : Ratlam, Khatarpur, Hoshangabhad, Satna, Sagar, Indore, Rajghad, Agar Malwa, Damoh, Seoni, Annupur and other places

Punjab & Haryana : Bathinda, Amritsar, Karnal, Jind and information on more places awaited

Telangana/Andhra Pradesh : Jayashankar, Narayanpet, Rangareddy, Warangal Rural, Wanaparthi Ongole, Mulugu, Nizamabad, Adilabad, Yadadri Bhuvanagiri, Nirmal, Sangareddy, Vijayawada, Guntur and Hyderabad - organized by AIKSCC, MAKAAM and other farmers' groups of Telangana/AP.

Odisha : Bargarh

Maharashtra : Mumbai

Saturday, October 5, 2019


Farmers’ movements are inviting all citizens, social organisations and people’s movements of India to hold protests all over the country on the 24th of October 2019, against the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Free Trade Agreement.
The Indian government is negotiating RCEP with 15 other countries including ASEAN countries along with large industrial economies like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand. The RCEP is a great threat to our food and farm sector, and the negotiations are reportedly coming to a close by the beginning of November 2019.
Here are some reasons why we are calling on our state and national governments to take agriculture out the RCEP and all other Free Trade Agreements:-
  • The RCEP will permanently bring down import duties on most agricultural commodities to zero.
  • Many countries are looking to dump their agricultural produce in India - sectors like dairy, which support livelihoods of millions of our marginal farmers, especially women, are under grave threat. Similar is the case with plantation products.
  • Seed companies will get more powers to protect their Intellectual Property Rights, and farmers would be criminalised when they save and exchange seeds.
  • Foreign corporations could bypass national courts and sue our governments for favouring our own farmers and workers at private arbitration tribunals via Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) mechanisms that are being discussed.
  • Leaked documents indicate that foreign investors would be able to purchase farmland and foreign corporations might also get support in government/public procurement of goods and services.
  • Large retail will get more power to wipe out local markets.
With 11 of these countries, India already has significant trade deficit and this is only projected to increase with the signing of RCEP.
Indian farmers cannot be subjected to one more free trade deal that is not protective of their interests and pits them against significant subsidies elsewhere. We need to collectively resist and stop RCEP from moving further, and to ensure that agriculture - including the dairy sector and plantation products - is taken out of RCEP. We need to activate our respective state governments to intervene immediately, and get them to write to the Union Government.
It is not just farmers who are facing an existential crisis here – the nation’s food sovereignty is at stake here. We need to protect ourselves by keeping agriculture out of the purview of all free trade agreements and we certainly need to stop RCEP.
A background note on RCEP, a letter that you can submit as a memorandum to your state government and to the Minister of Commerce are downloadable here.
Please let us know if you plan to do an action and where, at this email address of Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements:-
Download the Call to Action poster, doc.


India's sugar crisis and WTO- An Important message for the Indian sugarcane farmers

Background note : Currently, India’s sugar and sugarcane related domestic support policies have come under the scanner at the WTO, with Brazil, Australia and Guatemala initiating the dispute process against India (WTO 2019c). The concern these countries echo is that India provides domestic support in excess of its commitment levels and export subsidies for which it has no scheduled entitlements. This alleged inconsistency with the AoA has to be established by the countries successfully before a panel and if appealed, the Appellate Body of the WTO. The dispute is of significant importance to the Complainants as India is an attractive market for sugar products.

Access to this market would open up a potentially large export sector for these countries. In the sugarcane dispute, India’s fair and remunerative price (“FRP”) and the state advised price (“SAP”) are a few of the domestic support measures that are currently facing the challenge, in addition to some alleged export subsidy measures. If India loses the dispute, it would have to modify all measures that have been found inconsistent with the AoA. In the absence of the present support policies the sugarcane sector, which employs over 50 million farmers and over 500,000 sugar mill workers (DFPD 2017a), may face imminent collapse.