Sunday, March 30, 2014

Loan collectors in Karnataka beat a pregnant woman, causing the death of her child; KRRS intervenes for justice

video


At noon on March 29, 2014, a human chain of over a hundred farmer activists, each with his green shawl across his shoulder, stopped buses, trucks, and motorcycles in the busiest intersection of Doddagoragatta village (Tumkur District, Karnataka, India). In the midst of these Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha activists, stands Sridhar, a man in his mid-twenties, eyes swollen and tired. He holds a yellow plastic bag. Among the contents: a bank passbook (documenting payments and withdrawals), a hospital bill for 50,000 rupees, and a printed photo of a stillborn child.

In the past two weeks, he has gone from an expectant father to a mourning husband. During a violent altercation on March 18, corrupt loan officials beat his wife, Manjula, til she was unconscious. She was seven months pregnant. On March 23, the baby was pronounced dead.

KT Gangadhar articulates demands alongside
other KRRS office bearers; Sridhar stands behind
yellow bag in hand
Sridhar told us his story, using the yellow-bag documents as evidence: “I took out a loan of 10,000 rupees from a private society for a vehicle – an autorickshaw so I could earn supplementary income. I paid back each and every rupee. Here is the proof! Later, my father-in-law took out an agricultural loan of 20,000 rupees from a government society. They sanctioned the loan, but never gave him the payment! He was left with 20,000 rupees debt. When we demanded to know why they hadn't given the money, the four loan collectors said that my loan had never been paid back! They were running a giant fraud. We got into a fight.”

His mother-in-law continued, “My daughter Manjula intervened in the fight, and tried to talk reason to everyone there. The loan collectors beat her. They pulled her hair and pushed her down. She collapsed unconscious. We took her to a hospital immediately, and when she complained of stomach pains we brought her to this private hospital.”

Manjula, 24 years old, was seven months pregnant with her first child at the time of the fight. The doctors told her that the stomach pain corresponded to the baby's death. The four men in question have been put in jail under the sections relating to verbal abuse, physical abuse, threats, and intention to murder. The farmers' union is demanding they be tried for murder itself. The men in question have been in and out of jail many times for similar crimes and this time, KRRS activists say, they must stay there.

Sridhar and his wife Manjula share the lot of the majority of the farmer community in rural India as they face the uncertainties of hand to mouth subsistence and drought. They are financially trapped between loan collectors, rising prices of agricultural inputs, and social expectation to spend on occasions such as weddings. The agricultural loan that Manjula's father tried to take out was meant to purchase the necessary inputs to make their 1.5 acres productive enough to feed their family. It would have been paid back not from returns from agriculture (of which there are none) but from daily labor on others' fields.

Poster reads: "KRRS condemns brutality by loan collectors who assaulted
a pregnant woman, killing her baby. KRRS demands they are tried for murder."
It is for these farmers that KRRS is fighting, as a member of the International Peasant's Movement La Via Campesina. After stopping traffic for half an hour, they moved to the local government office, where they agitated for another hour. Besides demanding that the goondas be tried for murder, KRRS demanded that the government follow the national law prohibiting loan collection during drought and compensation to Sridhar and Manjula for the murder of their child. The local government received them and acknowledged the demands.

Next, the KRRS activists moved to a local bank to demand that the bank establishes a counseling body to mediate between drought and debt affected farmers and loan collectors. To ensure that the hospital fees be waived, fifteen remaining activists spent several hours waiting and courting the spiritual leader at the top of the group of institutions of which the hospital is a part.

The last stop was to the hospital itself, to share the day's news with Manjula, Sridhar, and their families. Sridhar met us outside the hospital and walked us to the room. Passing signs promoting “Healthy Mother, Healthy Child,” with drawings of lookalike families, I was only reminded of the image of his stillborn baby. We tramped through the intestines of the hospital, eventually reaching Manjula in the depth of the general ward. The room had fifty-odd beds, with dividers between every two rows. In one bed sat a woman with a covered crib next to her; on another bed slept a tiny-framed woman with an especially tiny baby; from another bed a grandmother picked up a child and carried it across the room.

Manjula laid in her corner bed in the fetus position, not making eye contact with any her visitors. Her mother stood and greeted us. The fifteen KRRS activists, men from their late twenties to late sixties who travelled from Shimoga, Bellur, Ramnagar, and in between, were out of place in the OBG ward, one of the few female-dominated spaces to be found in the Indian context. As Manjula's mother told us the story of her daughter's beating, women from around the general ward gathered and listened. Manjula broke into tears, the fingers of her outstretched hand twitching slightly. Sridhar, not comfortable holding her hand outright, inched slightly closer to her. The activists reported to them the activities of the day: the pressure they put on the local government, the bank's commitment to establish a counseling body, and, most recently, the promise by the hospital to waive the fees, upwards of 50,000 rupees.

One of the first issues KRRS tackled when it was founded 30 years ago by Professor MD Najundaswamy was corrupt government and cooperative society officials. Loan collectors would come to farmers' doors at any time of the day or night. They would demand to be let in, bringing dirty boots and dirty language. They would beat and harrass the women. They seized livestock and other collateral illegally.

But as farmers organized, they created a counterculture, in which corrupt officials would be punished according the village's judgment. Livestock was re-seized by groups of activist farmers. Wearing the green shawl was and is more than a symbol of groupism, it signifies self-respect: “When KRRS started, if one farmer went to a government servant to file a complaint, they wouldn't even offer him a chair. But in a group, wearing green shawl, farmers don't need to be offered a chair. They demand one, because they have self-respect,” tells Chukki Nanjundaswamy, the daughter of the late founder and herself an ardent activist.

Yesterday, as I rode with KRRS activists demanding justice for Manjula, Sridhar, and their family, the personal transformation of each activist was undeniable. Whether at a bank, hospital, government office, or agitating in the middle of the road, the activists were articulate, militant, and protagonists in these matters of injustice. Yesterday's actions are victories which must be a part of a larger justice. Justice for agricultural women, who work harder and suffer more than their male counterparts. Justice for small farmers in the Global South, who must bear all of the risks of the Global North's climate-changing consumerism and industrial agriculture. And justice for the future children of couples like Sridhar and Manjula, to give them the opportunity to live the lives their parents dream for them and they dream for themselves.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

KRRS occupies Ministers' residence, defending agriculture from GM

http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/farmers-confront-moily-on-gm-trials-issue/article5801587.ece?homepage=true

National » Karnataka

BANGALORE, March 19, 2014
Updated: March 19, 2014 02:14 IST

Farmers confront Moily on GM trials issue

Special Correspondent
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Union Minister for Environment and Forests M. Veerappa Moily with farmers who walked into his residence in Bangalore on Tuesday. PHOTO: K. MURALI KUMAR
The Hindu Union Minister for Environment and Forests M. Veerappa Moily with farmers who walked into his residence in Bangalore on Tuesday. PHOTO: K. MURALI KUMAR
TOPICS

I have not approved such trials: Union Minister

Confronted by farmers on the issue of permission given for field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops, Union Minister for Environment and Forests M. Veerappa Moily on Tuesday said that “he only examined the file concerned and returned it without approving any such trials.”

Mr. Moily was reacting to farmers associated with the Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) and South Indian Co-ordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (SICCFM) who marched onto his residential premises here and staged a dharna to condemn permission granted to regulators to go aheadwith clearances for GM field trials.

The farmers’ protest was in response to the announcement by Mr. Moily at a press conference in New Delhi on February 27 that field trials of GM crops, including GM varieties of rice, wheat, maize, would be permitted.

“If the Minister’s statement is true, then the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC), which is meeting on March 21 to give further approvals for GM crop trials, should desist from giving clearances as the former Minister Jayanti Natarajan’s orders will still be binding on it,” said KRRS president K.T.
Gangadhar.
 
He pointed out that Ms. Natarajan had, in her letter to the Prime Minister on July 9, 2013, said that it was important to await the judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter, and had accordingly issued directions to the authorities concerned.

KRRS working president Chukki Nanjundaswamy warned that farmers would come back in greater numbers to resume the protest.
“If what he is saying is correct, then we want him to give instructions to the regulators not to clear any field trials in the upcoming meeting of GEAC,” she said.

The KRRS and SICCFM declared that they will not only step up the campaign against GM crops and their promoters in the coming days but will also make this an election issue.
They also urged Chief Minister Siddaramaiah to desist from permitting any field trials of GM crops in the State.
Keywords: genetically modified cropsGM crops trialsKarnataka farmersVeerappa MoilyKarnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

KRRS welcomes farmers' leaders from across India at Memorial Day of Professor Nanjundaswamy - February 13th, 2014

Leaders of BKU Punjab learn about biofertilizer on a visit to an
agrecological farm nearby to Srirangapatna, Karnataka
Mr. Rakesh Tikait of BKU Uttar Pradesh observes sugarcane
produced through zero-budget natural farming. He even tasted
and confirmed it was sweet!
KRRS welcomed farmers' leaders from all over India this February when a birth memorial event took place at Amritha Bhoomi, in Chamarajnagar Karnataka. Amritha Bhoomi was the dream of late Professor Nanjundaswamy - an agroecology school and center for inquiry into agriculture and development - so it was only fitting that his birthday be celebrated at the campus. Before the event took place, farmers from Punjab and Uttar Pradesh visited local examples of agroecology.

President Chamarasa Mali Patil inaugurates the Memorial
 
Flag is raised by Sellamuthu of Tamil Nadu and Hasiru Sene Captain








KT Gangadhar greets Lokwal from Punjab and Ajmer Singh Gil from Punjab. Joining them is Sellamuthu from Tamil Nadu.



In loving memory of Professor MD Nanjundaswamy, co-founder of KRRS and staunch advocate for farmers' rights and dignity, farmers came from across Karnataka to participate in the program.

Speeches were given by many guests: Chukki Nanjundaswamy, Lokwal Singh (Punjab), Yudhvir Singh (Delhi), Rakesh Tikait (UP), Pacche Nanjundaswamy, KT Ganghadar, Nagendra, Sellamuthu (Tamil Nadu), Devison (Kerala), and many others. Local MLA Puttanaiah, of Pandavpur, also came in support.

After the event, the movement leaders held an all-India coordination committee of farmers movements meeting, where topics such as Agreement on Agriculture at the WTO, Land Acquisition Act, trainings for women and youth, and subregional coordination were addressed. Farmers continue the fight for food sovereignty, holding the memory of our late Professor close!



Cultural program of movement songs
Nagendra (General Secretary of KRRS), Chamarasa Mali Patil (President),
Chukki Nanjundaswamy, and Girish (Hasiru Sene Vice-Captain)
prepare the day's program

Women from the KRRS Women's Wing stand at the memorial of Professor Nanjundaswamy and his wife Prathima.

Friday, January 31, 2014

From GRAIN: "Defending people's milk in India"

“We take care of the cow and the cow takes care of us,” says Marayal, a farmer in Thalavady, Tamil Nadu. Her two cows produce 6 to 10 litres of milk a day, which she sells for 30-40 cents per litre.


Across India, there are millions of backyard dairy farmers like Marayal. Each owning just one or two cows, these farmers supply millions more families and hundreds of thousands of informal milk parlours and tea stalls across India. These small unregistered operations prefer to buy milk directly from backyard dairy farmers, who supply fresh milk at the lowest price.

Seventy million rural households in India – well over half of the country's total rural families – keep dairy animals. Over half of the milk they produce, mainly buffalo milk, goes to feed people in the communities they live in, while a quarter of it is processed locally into yoghurts, ghee (clarified butter) and other dairy products.

India's dairy sector employs around 90 million people, of which 75 million are women. It is a significant source of income for small and marginal farmers, the landless poor and millions of rural families. And it is still India's biggest agricultural sector, contributing 22% of total agricultural GDP. The country is the world's largest milk producer, accounting for over 15% of the total global dairy output. Milk is an essential part of the Indians' diets. Almost all 108 million tonnes of dairy produced annually is consumed domestically.

Much is made of the significance of India's dairy cooperatives in the “white revolution” which saw a tripling of milk production between 1980 and 2006. But the real story lies with the people's milk sector, which still accounts for 85% of the national milk market. It was India's small-scale farmers and domestic markets who were the real basis for the massive expansion in the country's dairy production over those years, and, as a result, the benefits of this boom in production have been widely distributed.

Through the 1980s and early 1990s, the National Dairy Development Board implemented the second and third phases of a programme to increase milk production and consumption in the country. Operation Flood aimed to improve nutrition and reduce poverty by linking milk producers in Indian villages with urban markets. The programme's success provided a steady income for farmers and even landless agriculture workers.

Corporate hands off the people's milk
But India's dairy sector has faced great challenges in recent years and the direction taken so far in negotiations over free trade agreements such as the India-EU FTA point to more difficulties ahead. With Western economies in crisis, India represents potentially rich pickings for powerful transnational corporations. The India-EU FTA essentially represents the demands of big corporations.
EUCOLAIT, the representative association of the European dairy trade and industry, is calling on EU negotiators to insist that the EU be given the same level of access to the Indian dairy market as India grants to other countries. In a December 2011 statement, EUCOLAIT highlighted India’s position as the world’s largest dairy consumer and said that India could become a consistent dairy importer. It says the EU should thus remain firm in negotiating an ambitious agreement delivering real market access for EU companies in the dairy sector.1

Against this, there is strong domestic support in India for the government to take adequate steps to protect the interests of the country's small dairy producers. On a parliamentary panel in April 2013, the members of parliament on the Committee of Agriculture stated that the interests of dairy producers in the country should be protected from monopolies and discriminatory and lopsided trade practices. There is also strong pressure from farmers’ movements to halt the India-EU FTA, which will create further liberalisation in the country and destroy India's agriculture sector, and the dairy sector in particular.


There is already a trend of increasing foreign investment in India's dairy, especially following the decision of the Government of India in late 2012 to allow foreign retailers to own up to 51% in multi-brand retail and 100% in single brand retail. According to Kevin Bellamy from Rabobank, the world's largest agribusiness lender, this is the first step towards introducing outside dairy products into the Indian dairy market.

To get around the initial opposition to its foreign direct investment policies for retail, the Indian central government left the final decisions with the state governments. So far, of the country's 30 state governments, only 10 of them have stated they are fully in favour of the revised FDI policies, while seven states are opposed and the remaining ones have yet to take a position. The position of the state governments closely matches the strength of dairy co-operatives in the states. In some states, such as Karnataka, there is a high level of government involvement in the dairy co-operatives, which also provide an important source of government revenue.

The role of co-operatives in the Indian dairy sector
There are around 96,000 dairy co-operatives in India, ranging between the primary, district and state level. Karnataka is one of the states where the role of co-operatives has been crucial. The Karnataka Milk Federation (KMF) is the largest Cooperative Dairy Federation in South India, owned and managed by milk producers of Karnataka State. KMF has over 2.23 million milk producers in over 12,066 Dairy Cooperative Societies at village level, functioning under 13 District Cooperative Milk Unions in the state.

One of the district level co-operatives in Chamrajanagar receives 85,000 to 90,000 litres of milk a day from its 225 primary level co-operatives. The milk is collected twice a day from 60 bulk milk collection centres, on average one centre for every five villages, and then transported to the chilling centres in Chamrajanagar town. There are three giant chilling tanks in the district with a capacity of 30,000 litres each.

Farmers who sell the milk to the co-operatives receive payment of between 7 to 21 rupees per litre (11-34 cents), depending on the level of solid non fat (SNF) that is measured using lactometers available in each collection centre. The average level of SNF in milk that the co-operatives receive is 8.4%. The milk is then packed into 1 to 2.5 litre packages for sale, under the Nandini brand. The Karnataka Milk Federation sells the milk to consumers for 32 Rs per litre (50 cents).

Karnataka produces a total of five million litres of milk annually, easily exceeding the state's consumption of three million litres. The surplus is processed into powdered milk (skim milk powder and whole milk powder) by SKA Dairy Foods, a private company contracted by the government through a tender process. The co-operatives pay SKA 2.5 paese per kg of milk powder (100 paese = 1Rs). The cooperative in Chamrajanagar has huge storage with capacity of 85,000 kg of milk powder. As the selling price of milk powder is ten times the price of fresh milk, milk powder is an important product of the cooperative along with ghee. Part of the milk powder production is used by the Government of Karnataka for its school children food subsidies program, which provides skim milk powder for children in grades 1-6 and whole milk powder to class 7-10. The remaining surplus is then sold to other states like Tamil Nadu, and even to Delhi. It is a major source of income for the state.


With its extensive coverage of villages in Karnataka, KMF is able to sustain income for small milk producers throughout the state. The cooperative system is not flawless. One of the most common problems is late payment to farmers. Producers are supposed to be paid each week, but one farmer near Rajarajeswar Nagar village said payments can be held up for more than a month. Financial transparency between various levels of the cooperatives and among members is also an issue. Only one representative from the lower levels of a cooperative participates at the level above.
The Karnataka cooperative and others have huge capacity to collect milk directly from farmers and bring it to market. Mega dairy farms, in contrast, have little interest in doing this. Instead, many big dairy companies seek to import powdered milk from Europe or New Zealand to meet demand.

The cooperatives have also played a crucial role in resisting the India-EU FTA. Amul, a major dairy cooperative from the state of Gujarat, wrote letters to the Minister of Commerce expressing its strong opposition to granting any kind of advantage in terms of import duty on dairy products.

Make Way for Mega Dairy Farms
India's new FDI and trade policies not only open the country up to dairy imports, they also facilitate the takeover of local dairy production and processing. In 2011, the Carlyle Group, one of the largest private equity firms in the US, bought a 20% stake in Tirumala Milk Products, a private dairy company that handles 1.2 million litres of milk daily from its procurement and distribution network in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. A year later, the French dairy giant Danone began negotiating the purchase of a controlling stake in Tirumala. That same year, Rabobank made an $18.5 million equity investment in Prabhat Dairy of Maharashtra through its India Agribusiness Fund. In August 2013, Rabobank invested another $12 million in Prabhat while the French development finance institution Proparco put in $9 million.

Part of this foreign investment in dairy production is driven by broader foreign investment in the food sector. As companies like McDonald's enter India, so do their main global suppliers. When McDonald's began opening restaurants in India in the late 1990s, its main dairy supplier, US-based Schreiber Foods, created a partnership with the wealthy Goenka family to establish a large dairy-processing company in Maharashtra, now called Schreiber-Dynamix.

The company set up contract farming and collection centres to collect milk from local farmers, but also began building up its own large-scale farm to supply its needs. In November 2010, the company inaugurated a "future ready" 6,000-cow dairy farm on 120 hectares in Pune District, with backing from the State Bank of India. Dynamix also supplies Danone, Nestlé, Yum! and Kentucky Fried Chicken. In February 2013, Nestlé made direct investment in a milk collection company linked to Schreiber-Dynamix by acquiring a 26% stake in Indocon Agro and Allied Activities Pvt Ltd, which is engaged in the milk collection business in western India.

 
Among the private dairy companies, the trend is clearly towards the creation of vertically integrated supply chains, starting with their own mega farms. The world's biggest milk producer, Fonterra, has a joint venture with the Indian Farmers’ Fertiliser Co-operative (IFFCO) and the Indian financial company Global Dairy Health (GDH) to establish a 13,000 cow dairy farm on 65 ha of land in an IFFCO Special Economic Zone near Nellore, Andhra Pradesh. The project now appears to be on hold after the Andhra Pradesh Animal Husbandry Department rejected the companies' application to import 9,000 high yielding pregnant cows from New Zealand. But a master plan for the special economic zone was approved in 2012 and Kalyan Chakravarthy of GDH was appointed as its Executive Director.
GDH also has plans for mega dairy farms in other locations. In a December 2010 presentation it described three farm projects that it was pursuing: the one in Nellore with IFFCO and Fonterra, a second for 3,500 cows in Bangalore with a "strategic local partner" with a target for operations starting in 2011, and a third for 3,500 cows with a local partner in North Coastal Andhra Pradesh, on the border with Orissa.

The multinational grain trading corporation Cargill also has plans to enter the Indian dairy sector. In 2010, Cargill announced that it would be investing in dairy farms in China and India through its hedge fund Black River Asset Management. Later in 2012, Black River's subsidiary, Cargill Ventures, made its first investment in the Indian dairy sector. It invested US$15 million (INR800m) in Dodla Dairy, also based in Andhra Pradesh, in Nellore. Dodla initially had investment from Indian private equity firm Ventureast.
 
Dairy and India's food sovereignty
“We don’t really intend to be dairy farmers, but it is part of our life,” Marayal says. For farmers like her, cows and buffaloes provide a steady and sustainable income.
The vibrant network of small producers and milk cooperatives that makes up most of India's dairy sector is a powerful model: one which is now threatened by free trade agreements and liberalised investment policies.

Opening up access to import heavily subsidised milk powder and other milk products from the European Union will allow processors and retailers to put downward pressure on local milk prices, forcing farmers to accept prices below the costs of production.

This is why India's farmers, cooperatives and trade unions have been at the forefront of protesting against the EU-India free trade agreement over the past year. They understand that high tariffs are a necessity. Far from leading to higher prices for consumers, such tariffs will protect against dumping and prevent big processors from substituting cheap, processed dairy – or even non-dairy – products for real milk.

Investors and big dairy corporations are working hard to hijack dairy markets in India and across the South. In addition to its interests in India, Cargill is investing hundreds of millions in mega dairy farms in China. Fonterra is also expanding aggressively in China and Brazil. If they succeed, it would spell economic and social disaster for millions of people.
But experiences elsewhere show that people's milk can successfully resist the powerful forces lined up against it. In Colombia, small producers, vendors and consumers formed an alliance that forced the government to recognise people's milk – leche popular – as legal and essential. This success was built on three key arguments. First, that people's milk presently meets the bulk of dairy needs and Big Dairy cannot replace it. Second, that millions of people's livelihoods depend on small dairy production; here too, Big Dairy offers no alternative. And finally, that the system of people's milk provides safe, fresh, nutritious milk at affordable prices to millions of households.
This is the system that needs to be defended as a cornerstone of food sovereignty in India, Colombia and elsewhere. Milk must remain in the hands of the people.

GRAIN acknowledges the support and collaboration of the South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers' Movements and Kannaiyan Subramaniam on this publication.

Natural milk production: the people’s concern, not big business
by Linus Jayatilake, National Movement of Sri Lankan Dairy Farmers
People's participation in Sri Lankan milk production is still around 53%. If the Government of Sri Lanka is consistent with its policy of National Milk Production, they should end the importation of powdered milk. Immediate steps have to be adopted to concentrate on local production of fresh milk mainly for children and the sick. Even rationing of milk is advisable till we reach a glut of production.

The import of foreign cows and genetic resources must to be stopped. The available cattle population (both cow and buffalo) – properly fed and protected – will be sufficient to initiate a new beginning. Even the Bos Indicus breed from India should not be imported. There are enough hybrid animals – Saheewal and Gir, for milk, and Khillari as draught animals – in Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan Bos indicus cow can give at least five bottles of milk (1 bottle = 750 ml) or more per day. This animal can thrive on various grasses and herbs. No concentrate feed is necessary at all. Therefore, it is a low cost production of milk full of cream and proteins. Buffalo populations of both the local and Indian breeds should be developed. The Sri Lankan Bos indicus breed should be utilised mainly for Integrated Agriculture and for ploughing and rural transport. Cow dung and cow urine are the most essential food for the soil - and the soil biota. The Indian farmers call it a Jeewa Amurthaya – the source of wealth – and the power of a Nation will depend on its healthy soil, its healthy plants and healthy living beings.

People's Milk is an engine of Poverty Alleviation and Health. It provides livelihoods and safe, affordable, nutritious foods. The revenues earned are distributed evenly and consistently throughout the sector. Everyone wins with people's milk, except for big business. And this is why there is such pressure to destroy it. What does Big Dairy have to offer? Instead of fresh, high-quality milk produced and supplied in the most sustainable ways, we are offered powdered and processed milk produced on highly polluting mega farms and sold in all kinds of packaging - at double the cost!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bali Ministerial: Indian Farmers urge Minister Sharma to continue support to farmers and right to food

PRESS RELEASE
4 December 2013
                                                                  
Bali Ministerial:
Indian Farmers urge Minister Sharma to continue support to farmers and right to food

The Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (ICCFM) reiterates its support to Minister Anand Sharma and the Indian government for taking a strong stance in support of the hungry and small farmers of not just India, but the entire developing world at the WTOs 9th ministerial meeting. There is tremendous pressure on the Indian government to accept the Bali package, which could result it being forced to roll back the farmers Price Support System and the National Food Security Act, which provides subsidized food to more than 800 million people in India.

Members of ICCFM from Bhartiya Kisan Union, KRRS and SICCFM are present in Bali and are closely monitoring the ongoing talks and the stand of the Indian delegation in Bali. They have been part of several actions both inside and outside of the WTO venue, and demonstrations on the streets of Bali in order to demand the rights of farmers and the hungry and to keep the WTO and its free trade agenda out of Agriculture. “The millions of small farmers in India depend on farming as the main source of their livelihood. Agriculture is not a business in India, it is a culture and a way of life for the poor. We will not allow the WTO or any other free trade deal to endanger the livelihood of millions of our farmers,” said Yudhvir Singh of BKU.

The ICCFM urges the Indian government to deliberate deeply on its position on agriculture and global trade along with Indian farmers after the Bali talks end and permanently safeguard the interests of Indian farmers and hungry by ensuring strong national food security laws that support local production.

The WTO is forcing developing countries to cut already meagre subsidies to their hungry and poor, while allowing rich to continue huge trade distorting subsidies to their own agribusiness. At the same time it is forcing developing countries to open their markets to rich country products, while they face several barriers to exporting their own products. The Peace Clause in the current Bali package is an empty promise to developing countries which will leave them open to challenge in the four year interim period. “The peace clause is just a way to get us to accept the deal, eventually we will totally lose our ability to produce food and thousands of farmers will commit suicide if agriculture imports from rich countries flood our markets,” said Nandini Jairam of KRRS.

“We have communicated our concerns to Minister Sharma here in Bali. We will wait to see the stand that the Indian government takes at the end of the talks. If they don't reject the Peace Clause and protect Indian farmers and hungry, then we will come out on the streets all across the country and the consequences will be serious,” said Rakesh Tikait of BKU.

The ICCFM announced its intention to mobilize in a strength of more than 1 lakh in March 2014, the exact form and intensity of the mobilization will depend on the stance taken by the official Indian delegation here in Bali, and its behavior back in India.

For more information, please contact:
Yudhvir Singh, Coordinator and National Secretary, ICCFM (Yudhvir55@yahoo.com)
Rakesh Tikait, Spoksperson, BKU
Ms. K.S. Nandini Jayaram, President, KRRS Women’s Unit (nandiniksgowda@gmail.com)

Ashlesha Khadse: ashlesha.khadse@gmail.com, In Bali:  +62 87862889108

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Global Day of Action: #endWTO! Justice for Farmers!

In the midst of the 9th WTO Ministerial, La Via Campesina South Asia took part in the Global Day of Action at home in Mangalore and abroad in Bali. All over the world on December 3rd, farmers, trade unions, fisherfolk, women, and indigenous people joined together to demand a decisive blow to neoliberalism: an end to the WTO, once and for all.

In Bali, the mobilization was organized by Gerak Lawan, SMAA, and #endWTO. Each group of protesters had a colorful presentation: Koreans held a funeral for the WTO while a local Indonesian drum band played on in the background. More than 30 nationalities were present.

More photos here.

“The Bali package is a terrible deal for the developing world. We are forced to accept a legally binding agreement on trade facilitation and cut our small subsidies for farmers and the hungry. The peace clause is a trojan horse to get us to accept the WTO deal.” said Henry Saragih of Indonesia. 

“We don't want to get into discussions on weather the peace clause should be for 4 years or 10 years, the point is that the WTO is doing nothing for the farmers, in the long run it spells death for us. Indian farmers will never accept such a deal,” said Yudhvir Singh of BKU.

(More coverage: Jakarta Post, Economic Times)

Meanwhile, in Karnataka, India, farmers mobilized on the ground at a place of great meaning to agriculturalists trying to make a living in South India: the Mangalore port, an import hub of the nation. Farmers from four Indian states - Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, and Maharastra - came together to demand India leaves the WTO. They blockaded the port and burned an effigy of the WTO.


According to The Hindu:
The protesters viewed the limiting of subsidy on agriculture produce by the WTO, and the facilitation of cheap, duty-free import of agricultural produce by the Free Trade Agreements as “an extension of colonialism” and hurting the interest of farmers.

Coffee-grower M. Manjunath from Mudigere in Chikmagalur taluk, believed that the prices of coffee would increase by around Rs. 1,500 per quintal if cheap imports from Brazil were stopped. “Up to four per cent of the 3 lakh tonnes produced in India can be imported. Because of this, there are no buyers of our produce,” he said.
Similarly, K.G. Umesh, a sugarcane farmer from Maddur taluk in Mandya district, said the duty-free imports of sugar from Brazil and Malaysia were eating into the profitability of farmers here.
K.T. Gandadhar, general secretary of KRRS, said the import of sugar, maize, pigeon peas (tur dal), palm oil, rubber, areca nut were hurting domestic farmers.
He asked Parliament and Union government to ensure that developing countries walk out of the WTO talks. The protesters burned an effigy of the trade organisation.
“On the one hand, the cost of agriculture is soaring. On the other, farmers are being pushed into distress because of the dumping policies of the WTO. India should ensure that all imports are taxed, and should follow a path that aids farmers,” said Chamarasa Mali Patil, president, KRRS.

More photos, coverage here.

BREAKING NEWS: ACTION BY INDIAN MOVEMENTS INSIDE WTO MEETING



December 3



India: Defending the Poor and Hungry is Non-Negotiable!

2 December 2013

On the occasion of the Ninth Ministerial Meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in Bali, Indonesia, several farmers’ organisations, trade unions, mass organisations and peoples’ campaigns resolved to support the Indian Government’s position to not trade away national food security.

The group welcomes the decision of the Indian Cabinet on 28th November to reject any peace clause that does not guarantee a permanent solution. The peace clause has been widely opposed by the Chairs of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Commerce and Agriculture, several political parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties, and mass organisations.

However, the group cautioned the Indian negotiating team headed by Commerce Minister Mr. Anand Sharma, not to bow to any pressure to weaken India’s position on defending and upholding national food security as a sovereign right. The group declared that the safeguarding and promotion of the country’s food security, rural employment and livelihoods are non-negotiable, and that food security cannot be ensured without supporting agricultural production by small and marginal farmers

The group reminds the WTO members that no country needs to be on the defensive about protecting the right to food and fighting hunger in their countries. And that aggressively upholding the rights of its citizens is not tantamount to collapsing the ministerial talks. On the contrary, such pressure tactics must be exposed as a conspiracy to keep people hungry and poor.

It was decided that the group would closely monitor the negotiations during the ministerial meeting to ensure that the interests of the poor and hungry are not compromised in any way.

Bhartiya Kisan Union
Bharatiya Krishak Samaj
Bharatiya Majdoor Sangh
Focus on the Global South India
Great Mission Group Consultancy
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS)
Public Services International
Right to Food Campaign
Shram Seva Nyas
South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements
Swadeshi JagranManch
Third World Network India



December 4