Letter to Shri Man Mohan Singh, Prime Minister of India
To Shri Man Mohan Singh, Honourable Prime Minister of India, Government of India, New Delhi
Dear Hon’ble Prime Minister,
We, the farmers of India, are extremely agitated over the recent developments in the WTO Doha Round negotiations with the introduction of revised drafts on the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) this year. The latest draft once again establishes that the WTO / AoA is clearly inadequate in regulating subsidies of rich countries and ensures that the developed countries continue to dole out massive subsidies to their farmers. Further the huge subsidies under "Green Box" will continue to remain outside any effective multilateral discipline, leave aside any reduction commitment whatsoever. The latest text retains the imbalances between the interests of a majority of developing countries that are affected by the liberalization commitments, and the developed countries. It is a pity that the Indian government, which boasts of protecting farmers interest in WTO, appears to be contented with the Crawford Falconer’s draft of July 10th 2008 even though it failed in ensuring any reduction in US current agricultural subsidy level. This is a drastic change in Indian position on subsidy issue. India is ready to compromise the fate of its 600 million farmers, while on the other hand, the US, despite its WTO commitment for slashing subsidies, authorizes a $307 billion agricultural subsidies over five fiscal years under the Farm Bill of 2008.
The latest AoA draft is also a big setback to India and other developing countries so far as the Special Products (SP) and Special Safeguard Mechanism (SSM) are concerned. India and the G33 countries placed their trust in the mechanisms of SP and SSM, but Mr. Falconer offer for SP and SSM are too restrictive and ineffectual and the range of protection are too narrow and too weak. We always believed that the SP and SSM are neither effective nor long-term protection from cheap subsidized imports from developed countries.
We also believe that the basic agenda of the Doha round is not “development” but “market access” through forced lowering of tariff in developing countries. India is already experiencing drastic impact of removal of quantitative restrictions (QRs) and autonomous trade liberalization in agriculture and any further lowering of tariff on agricultural goods under Doha round would be disastrous for the small and marginal farmers who constitute 90 percent of farming population in India. Moreover, our agriculture is being sacrificed in return for a very miniscule gain from Doha Round as indicated by the World Bank and Carnegie Endowment for International Peace studies, which shows that the entire gain in agriculture to the 110 developing countries, including India, would be to the tune of just US $6.7 billion dollars. The studies also say that Indian agriculture stands to lose due to accession to the WTO. Thus, acceptance of the latest draft as negotiating text for agricultural negotiations by the Indian government is a betrayal of our farming interest.
We severely condemn India’s sudden shift in its position on AoA and accepting the US and the EU “zero reduction commitment” from their actual agricultural subsidies level. We warn the government to reject the biased July 10th agriculture draft and boycott the forthcoming Mini Ministerial scheduled for 21st to 25th July in Geneva. We insist that the UPA government must immediately come out with a white paper on gains and losses emerging from the Doha round before making any commitment at the WTO Mini Ministerial. Till such time, India should push for keeping agriculture out of the WTO.
We also demand for reintroducing Quantitative Restriction’s (QR’s) to protect Indian agriculture from cheap subsidized imports, stopping autonomous liberalization in agriculture and raising import tariff on edible oil, cotton and wheat to at least 75% to protect the interest of Indian farmers and consumers. In view of the recent trend of signing bilateral and regional trade agreements, we assert that the government must ensure proper safeguards to protect our farmers in view of FTAs and RTAs that are being signed with the ASEAN, European Union, China and other countries.
As a result of liberalisation and globalisation policies, the cost of living has increased; resulting in the increased cost of production in agriculture; yet there is no corresponding increase in the minimum support price (MSP) of food grains which are resulting in indebtedness of majority of our farmers, and forcing them to commit suicide. We therefore urge you to revise the MSP of all agricultural commodities. The UPA government had made a promise to the farmers to increase the MSP for Rice to Rs. 1050 per quintal but it was fixed only at Rs.850/qtl despite recommendations of the Commission on Agriculture Cost and Prices (Ministry of Agriculture). We demand that the MSP for Rice must be increased to Rs. 1050/qtl for this year.
The increased trade liberalisation has resulted in import of genetically engineered (GM) foods and seeds. The UPA government has allowed import of processed food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) without having any regulatory mechanism as well as exempted them from mandatory regulatory approval. Several imported foods have been found to be containing GMOs and are selling opening in Indian market without any regulation and testing. The UPA government also permitted large-scale field trials of Bt Brinjal, the first GM food crop in India, while several other GM crops are on the verge of being released for commercial cultivation. In order to protect our biological diversity, we demand a complete ban on commercial release as well as imports of all GM crops, foods and seeds in the country. Instead of promoting GMOs, the government must support ecological agriculture and provide incentives for growing toxic free foods through organic farming.
We are therefore hoping that you will immediately take notice of our demands and take necessary actions.
Mahender Singh Tikait, President, Bhartiya Kissan Union, India
Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, State President, BKU Punjab
Jagdish Singh, State President, BKU Madhya Pradesh
Gurnam Singh, State President, BKU Haryana
Yudhvir Singh, Spokesman, Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movement
Road No. 2, A – 33, Mahipalpur Extension, New Delhi – 110 037, India
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