Monday, March 27, 2017

Bharatiya Kisan Union backs protesting Tamil Nadu farmers in Delhi, calling for their demands to be met immediately

By Abhilash Babu, Via Campesina

27 MarchOn Monday, Bharatiya Kisan Union led by Rakesh Tikait joined the Tamil Nadu farmers who have been protesting in Jantar Mantar since two weeks, offering support to their demands for a complete loan waiver, fair and profitable price for their produce and drought relief and mitigation measures, including inter-linkage of rivers. 

Nearly 170 drought-affected farmers have been on an indefinite protest in Delhi for over two weeks. 

The farmers from Tamil Nadu, led by P Ayyakanu of South Indian River Interlinking Farmers’ Association had grabbed wide spread attention after they brought along with them what they allege are skulls of farmers who committed suicide due to farm distress. 

While speaking to the media P Ayyakanu broke down, “We have been sitting here for two weeks demanding a direct meeting with the Prime Minister, so that we can convey to him our depressing realities. Over four hundred farmers have committed suicide in the last six months in my region. We are being harassed for repaying loans. How will we pay back when there is massive drought and when we don’t get a profitable price for our produce? This year we haven’t cultivated at all”

Tamil Nadu is facing the worst drought in nearly 140 years. The protesting farmers are largely from the delta area of Cauvery river. 

Several of the assembled farmers from Tamil Nadu were seen holding dead rats in their mouths. “It is a symbolic act to show the extreme hunger that exists in rural Tamil Nadu now owing to the farm crisis”, said one of them. 

Rakesh Tikait from Bharatiya Kisan Union said “These are farmers who have traversed 3000 kilometres to reach the capital city to convey their problems to the government. All their demands resonate with the demands of small farmers of North India too. That is why Bharatiya Kisan Union is pledging their support to our sisters and brothers from South India. It is not just in Tamil Nadu, but in every state including Uttar Pradesh farmers are reeling under heavy debt. They have been long demanding a fair support price for their produce, which is atleast 50% more that the cost of production. That demand has not been met by successive governments and we want it to be immediately implemented. To reduce rural distress, it is important that the loans of farmers are waived. Bhartiya Kisan Union has also long been demanding for inter-linking of rivers.”

Rakesh Tikait also mentioned about the need for a National Agricultural Policy. He demanded that a committee be formed to look into all issues of the farmers – including price, issues of debt and loans. Unless a policy at a national level is not framed, we are just moving in circles. 

The union leader also warned that if demands are not met, they will scale up the agitation and bring all farmers across the various states of India together. Among other leaders of BKU, its general secretary Yudhvir Singh also joined the protests today.

Watch video 

Bharatiya Kisan Union is also a member of the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements which has prominent farmers’ organisations of the south such as Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and others as its members. 

Several Tamil students were also present at Jantar Mantar offering their support and solidarity to the protesting farmers. 

Political leaders including Sitaram Yechury and D Raja also visited the protesting farmers at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi. 

Reacting to the drought relief of Rs. 2000 crore issued by the Tamil Nadu government. P Ayyakannu said that it is barely enough. “For dry land we are given Rs 3000 per acre and for wet land just above Rs. 5000. How is that any relief?”

Incidentally, the Supreme Court was also hearing a petition on farmers’ suicides today and it has asked the Central government to file an affidavit with a road map and a detailed plan of action to deal with the issues of suicide, within four weeks.
More photos available here. 

Friday, March 24, 2017

Call to mobilise on #17April - Int'l Day of Peasant Struggles!

Peasants Rights, Human Rights! 

Advance toward UN Declaration on Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas! 

Harare, 23 March 2017: 
The international farmers' movement La Via Campesina calls all its members and allies to mobilise on April 17, the International Day of Peasant's struggles.[1] This year, we want the world to know that peasants and other people working in rural areas have been working very hard for their rights. The rights of peasants initiative, which La Via Campesina started 17 years ago, now is in advanced process within the United Nations towards a Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. This declaration, if approved, will create an international legal instrument to protect the rights of and draw attention to the threats and discrimination suffered by peasants and other people working in rural areas.
The need for a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and other People Working Rural Areas is more urgent and evident in the 21st century. Peasants, who produce the bulk of the food consumed globally, continue to face criminalisation, discrimination, displacements and persecution despite existence of numerous international legal instruments for recognition and protection of such rights.
Peasants' basic rights are increasingly very vulnerable as the economic and ecological crisis worsens. This situation is closely linked to human rights violations: expropriation of land, forced eviction, gender discrimination, the absence of right to land and lack of rural development, low income and lack access to means of production, insufficient social protection, and criminalization of movements defending the rights of peasants and people working in rural areas.
For instance, in Africa, over 70% of the agricultural production and care-giving is done by women but there is little recognition of their rights in relation to asset ownership, access to credit, information and participation in policy making etc. In Brazil, despite many years of peasants struggling for comprehensive agrarian reform, fair redistribution of land remains unfulfilled. In Europe, the Common Agricultural Policy and market deregulation of the milk sector affect hundreds of thousands of family farmers. In Asia, much as in rest of the world, free trade agreements and bilateral treaties have destroyed local markets and continue to threaten local and traditional ways of farming and farmers' exchange. Land concentration is increasing as some of the affected farmers are forced to sell their land; youth participation in farming is at its lowest. 
We call upon the people around the world to celebrate International Day of Peasants' Struggle by continuing to work to reinforce food sovereignty, the fight against climate change and the conservation of biodiversity; to fight for a genuine agrarian reform and a better protection against land-grabbing; continue to conserve, use, and exchange our seeds; and strengthen the solidarity among ourselves. These give strength for us to defend our land against corporate interest, persecution and violence against peasants and other people working in rural areas.
This year in July 2017 in the Basque Country, La Via Campesina will hold its VIIthInternational Conference to deepen our analysis of the current crisis and agree on strategic lines for action to strengthen our movement.
We also call upon countries to support the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. We will mobilise our members and allies to pressure our governments to make the next negotiation in the 4th session of Open Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on rights of peasants and other people working in rural area at UN HR Council Geneva successful. We believe in championing the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, humanity also wins.
Join us on April 17th by organising demonstrations, pressure to governments, public debates and discussions, film screenings, farmers markets, festivals, or solidarity actions - all of your ideas and plans are welcome! Share by sending to so that we can capture and circulate them on our MAP of actions ahead of time. Please send us your pictures, audios and videos so that we can upload them on our website and our our TV".

We feed our peoples and build the movement to change the world! 

[1] On April 17th, 1996, 19 peasants were killed when military police in the Amazonian State of Pará in Brazil attacked a large number of members of the Landless Workers Movement (MST) who were blockading a highway in order to demand agrarian reform.  Two more people died from their injuries several days later, and hundreds of others were so seriously injured that they could not go on working in agriculture. La Via Campesina, which was then in the midst of holding its second international conference at Tlaxcala in Mexico, declared April 17th to be the International Day of Farmers' and Peasants' Struggle.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

South India: Workshop - Understanding RCEP and its implications

b_350_0_16777215_00_http___focusweb.org_sites_www.focusweb.org_files_RCEP_rotest_Dec_1_-_3.jpgRCEP is a proposed trade and investment treaty currently being negotiated between 16 countries in the Asia-Pacific region including India that together cover half the world's population.[1]  Launched in November 2012, the 17th round of offical talks took place in Kobe, Japan (26 February to 3 March 2017). The 18th round of RCEP’s trade negotiations committee will be hosted by the Government of India in July 2017. But the key question is what positions should India be taking? 
RCEP has reached a major turning point as free trade is facing a legitimacy crisis across the world. After USA withdrew from the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agrement (TPP) (a similar initiative that included many Asian, but also American nations),  RCEP remains as the main mega-regional  agreement for Asian & Pacific nations. 
The RCEP agreements are being negotiated behind closed doors; though several components of the texts under negotiation have been leaked online and have been analysed. The analysis indicates that the RCEP negotiations will impact nearly every sector of the economy and all aspects of society. It is therefore important to understand RCEP and its likely impacts. 
People in India, specially in the Southern region, have already felt the brunt of liberalisation through earlier trade agreements, such as the multilateral WTO, India-ASEAN FTA and other FTAs. They have experienced the surge of imports of oil seeds and cash crops, closure of the machinery and electronics manufacturing sector leading to loss of employment, imports of cheap steel leading to loss of production within the country, increased import dependence for production of pharmaceutical and other goods, and increased cost of medicines due to more stringent patent rules, to name a few. 
RCEP could make it worse by further reducing import tariffs on agricultural and manufacuring goods; by further reinforcing the monopoly of pharmaceutical companies; by locking in the role of the private sector in providing essential public services such as healthcare and education; and by widening the scope of an unfair system of dispute resolution in which investors can sue governments for billions of dollars. 
The mega regional FTA also raises concerns about pushing ‘WTO-plus’ issues on developing countries. This is when there is evidence of how existing WTO commitments in intellectual property (TRIPS), agriculture (AoA) and investment measures (TRIMS) have adversely impacted policy space and livelihoods.  Apart from the global level, RCEP also raises Constitutional challenges at the state level where many of these sectors under negotiation fall under state jurisdiction. 
In this context, a workshop is being convened in early April to build our collective capacities on trade agreements in general and RCEP in particular. The workshop will be joined by researchers who have been closely following the negotiations and by representatives of mass organisations in different sectors.
Date/Location - 2nd and 3rd April, 2017/ Bangalore 
For more information, contact
Shalini Bhutani, Forum against FTAs
Rashmi Munikempanna, Janandolangala Mahamaithri and La Via Campesina

[1]  Other countries in the negotiations are Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea, and the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) i.e. Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Photo: (From the archives) - A protest by members of Bharatiya Kisan Union against RCEP in late 2014 in Greater Noida.

(First published on -

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Manifest: Rights of peasants – a step ahead for the future of humanity


Schwäbisch Hall, 13 March 2017

The International Congress on Peasants’ Rights, which took place from 7 to 10 March in Schwäbisch Hall, Germany, brought together close to one hundred peasants and representatives of food producers from all over the world,  along with the same diversity of human rights defenders and activists. The Congress concluded with the presentation of a Manifesto on the need for a Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, a text that was finalized with the contribution of the participants to the event. Below you can find the full text.
Almost 500 years ago, growing encroachments on peasants’ common lands by princes and churches led to rural uprisings in Southern Germany and to the drafting of the peasants’ “Twelve Articles”. This document represents the first record of demands for human rights and liberties in Europe, and included the right to equal access to lands, forests and fishing grounds. Although the feudal lords brutally crushed this revolt, peasants kept resisting and showing that the feudal nobility hadn’t defeated them. History shows that when peasants are rolled back in one place they reappear in another one. Peasant revolts are still on-going!
The Global Peasants’ Rights Congress, taking place from the 8th to the 10th of March 2017, shows this. More than 400 peasants, fishers, pastoralists, beekeepers, indigenous people, migrant and seasonal workers, rural women, youth, food consumers, NGOs’ representatives, academics, lawyers, activists and government representatives from more than 50 countries gathered together in the city of Schwäbisch Hall, a hotspot of the 16th-century “Great Peasants’ War”, to exchange views, to learn and to increase awareness about the current process of drafting a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. This Declaration has roots in an initiative of La Vía Campesina launched more than 15 years ago. With the sponsorship of the Bolivian Government, the process has been rapidly advancing in the UN Human Rights Council and will now go to a fourth round of negotiations in May 2017. This week’s Global Peasants’ Rights Congress showed that while we come from highly diverse backgrounds, we are nonetheless able to join hands in defense of human dignity and nature. This process resembles a river, with an increasing number of tributaries, crossing different landscapes and flowing together in a mighty stream of life.
Yesterday’s oppressors today have new faces. Instead of feudal lords we now confront the weapons of capital:
Corporations, national elites and governments are grabbing our territories, including our oceans, and endangering our livelihoods, social cohesion, peoples’ sovereignty and peace. Whenever we are prevented from controlling our territories, food sovereignty is under huge danger. For pastoralists, especially, this amounts to disrupting their mobility and particular way of relating to their diverse ecosystems. Violence against our territories is closely interlinked with violence against women. Women suffer violence on their bodies and are not recognized as political subjects of transformation. Land concentration is sharply increasing everywhere, driven by a development and production model that destroys biodiversity and the environment and contributes to climate change. At the same time, the cessation of agrarian reform programs means that landless tenants experience new forms of slavery, ultimately leading to migration.
The absence of international mechanisms to manage migration increases the vulnerability of migrants and their communities. Especially women are often left behind with an increased burden of productive and reproductive labour. On the other hand plantation and migrant workers are heavily exposed to pesticides and have to do piece rate labour without job security; they are denied social security, prevented from organizing freely and are often vulnerable to be deported. Women and migrants are the most exploited rural workers.
Our animals are at risk as well of being grabbed by research centers and companies that apply for patents on their genetic traits. Trade agreements, the World Bank, G7 and so-called philanthropic foundations are forcing governments in the Global South to introduce industrial seeds and to align their laws with international regimes of intellectual property protection. Thus, peasants in Europe and other places are criminalized for saving and replanting seeds which fall under the protection of the UPOV convention. Our knowledge as peasants, livestock producers and beekeepers, our innovations and further development of biodiversity, suffer discrimination from proponents of the allegedly superior knowledge of science and academia. The intertwined and holistic relationship between our communities, our cultures and nature in our territories is violently disregarded.
Furthermore, we often lack access to means of production such as credit, infrastructure and insurance. We are deprived of access to markets, which, along with agricultural policies, are primarily geared to international trade. The market power of companies and intermediaries keeps prices for fish and other peasants’ products low. Former public local food markets are being privatized.
Finally, we are facing brutal repression. In many countries the media, in collusion with governments, manipulates public opinion against resisting rural communities and, more broadly, underpins a system of oppression and inequality. Whenever we stand for the defense of our rights, territories and livelihoods, governments physically and legally harass us. With the pretext of preventing terrorism, right-wing governments are criminalizing a huge number of social movement leaders using anti-terrorism laws. Furthermore, the worldwide rise of xenophobia, nationalism, racism, misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia is putting food sovereignty and people’s sovereignty at high risk and threatening our rural people’s identities.
In light of these common threats, we go out of this congress deeply convinced of the strategic importance of a UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. This Declaration strengthens the legitimacy of our demands and makes visible our social, cultural and political values. It acknowledges our enormous contribution to ensuring collective well-being – whether through the provision of nourishing food or the development of biodiversity and the protection of the environment. It reaffirms our rights to land, water and natural resources, to seeds, biodiversity, food sovereignty, decent income and means of production, and their collective dimension. It contributes to the emancipation of women from patriarchal structures. It considers the importance of intergenerational thinking and knowledge transmission in rural areas. Ultimately, it recognizes that our collective future, and the very future of humanity, is bound up with the rights of peasants and other people working in the rural areas. The Declaration is an important tool for the struggle, compiling our rights in one instrument in a holistic and coherent way. It is creating a shift in consciousness and inspiring new law making. It can become a vehicle for the convergence of movements and struggles committed to larger systemic changes.
In order to achieve stronger support from states for this Declaration, participants in the Global Peasants’ Rights Congress call on all movements of the Declaration’s rights-holders — peasants, livestock producers and pastoralists, fishers, forest dwellers, indigenous peoples, rural artisans, traditional communities, among others — to build alliances in their local and national contexts, to keep resisting and to jointly mobilize. The struggles at the grassroots level are crucial for ensuring recognition and support by our national governments and for generating strong and broad pressure towards a swift approval of this Declaration.
We call on the world’s governments to seriously commit to this process. We especially call on the German and European governments to live up to their commitment to human rights by strongly engaging with this historic process. Violations of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas also take place here in Europe, where the Common Agriculture Policy is supporting the logic of “increase in size or disappear”. This production and export-oriented European industrial agriculture and food system leads to depeasantization in Europe and has enormous external impacts on the entire planet.
We acknowledge that although we come from countless different backgrounds, we suffer intersecting forms of oppression and must stay in solidarity with each other – South and North, women and men, elders and youth, rural and urban, peasants, migrant and seasonal workers, indigenous people, fishers, pastoralists and beekeepers. We affirm our interconnected struggles. If one of us loses, we all will lose. Our capacity to organize is our instrument of power and will lead to effectively enforcing our rights as human beings and as peasants.
Like a river, our forces will flow together in a mighty stream of life!
Long live peasants!
Schwäbisch Hall, March 10th, 2017
photos: Hannes Jung (

Click here to read the Declaration of the Rights of Peasants

(First published on -

Kasturirangan Report is destructive – Chukki Nanjudaswamy

Calicut, Kerala: Kasturirangan report that recommends the eviction of farmers from the Western Ghats region is destructive, said Chukki Nanjudaswamy, Chairperson of Amritabhoomi Trust. 

She was speaking at the inaugural ceremony of the International Council for Environmental Protection (ICEP), a network of farmers and environmentalists.
Developed and industrialized countries, responsible for high carbon emissions and global warming are shifting their blame on small farmers, with vested intents. 

She argued that those who have stolen our seeds, soil and water are now proposing solutions for environmental protection. It is these ‘experts’ who script environmental protection policies from the comfort of their air-conditioned rooms, whom we should be suspicious of, she warned.

Farmers who work on the soil are our best bet to protect the environment. Any attempt to evict them from their traditional farm lands must be resisted sternly, she added.
We should not allow the State-Corporate nexus to dictate the terms of environmental protection to us. People should be at the forefront of this decision making and Kerala can provide an example to the rest of the country in doing this.

(Translated from Malayalam, first published at

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Interpretation-translation training held successfully in Nepal

Kathmandu, March/ A two day skill development training on interpretation and translation organized by La via Campesina (LVC-international peasant movement) along with All Nepal Peasants Federation (ANPFa) in co-operation with Solidarity Interpretation group successfully held in Kathmandu. The program was attended by around 20 trainees volunteers who were part of the various CSOs and social movements especially working on the issue of peasantry and agriculture.

Data Ram Khanal-secretary of ANPFa in his inauguration speech shared the situation of agriculture and peasantry in Nepal. Mr. Pramesh Pokharel, youth peasant leader and secretary of foreign affairs of ANPFa highlighted the significance and value of interpretation to consolidate the local movement and link with global movement. He said that, we want more volunteers to help the movements through their professional skills to uphold the spirit of saying there is no internationalization of movement without interpretation and no revolution without interpreters. I hope that this skill will help our farmers to be updated with what’s happening around the world and to carry our voices to the larger audiences.

Honorable Shanta Manavi, former minister for livestock development shared her experience on how interpreters do their jobs and how she was able to take the responsibility of ICC member of La Via Campesina with the help of interpreters. She also spoke about the importance of confidence, expression and reflexivity for the interpreters.
Trainers representing various movements of students, youths, women, Dalits, indigenous groups including progressive likeminded NGOs/CSOs were present in the program. The training was also fruitful to develop skills of memorizing, note taking, confidence building and developing the skill of public speaking-one of the participants from NGO Federation of Nepal said . Katie Whiddon, who was the trainer from Spain also made a presentation on conceptual and methodological issues of interpretation.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bharatiya Kisan Union demand compensation for land acquired for Kanpur thermal power plant

They also demanded that farmers arrested from the protest site be immediately released.
Kanpur, India: Since 21 November 2016, farmers in Lahurmau village of Kanpur, whose lands were acquired to build a Nyveli-owned thermal power plant, have been staging an indefinite strike by the banks of Yamuna river
These farmers from neighbouring eight villages allege that the construction at the site have already begun even before they have received compensations for their lost land and livelihoods. Nearly 1850 farmers in these villages are directly affected by   the power project.

The ownership of the acquired land had already been issued to the power plant. While the planning for the project had begun at least four years before, apart from a few farmers most of them allege that they have not received any compensation so far.

In these four years, none of these farm families have been able to cultivate in their land, leading to loss of livelihoods and considerable fall in their farm incomes. Farmers have been forced to take to the streets in protest. The project plan which came about during the term of the previous Central government, was pushed forth under the pretext that the affected farmers would be compensated four-times the market rate of land in the region, considering the permanent loss of livelihoods and farm incomes. When the new government came to power in 2014, it took the implementation of the project forward, but farmers’ demands remained unmet. In the meantime, farmers allege that there have been massive discrepancies in ascertaining the compensation amount from what was agreed initially. They also accuse the plant owners for providing inadequate compensation to some farmers before the land prices were expected to appreciate.

Worse, some of the protesting farmers like Niraj Singh Rajput and Vishaka of Bharatiya Kisan Union were arrested by the police in January, false cases slapped and jailed. Visakha, was arrested in the absence of any woman police official and farmers accused the administration of high handedness in dealing with the issue.

In response, on 1st March 2016, Bharatiya Kisan Union, issued an ultimatum to the district officials to immediately release Niraj Singh and Vishaka Rajput. They have also demanded that the false cases slapped on the protesting farmers be immediately taken back.

Keeping in line with the original agreement, all affected farmers, including the few who were inadequately compensated, be provided compensation that is four times the current circle rate of the land. They have also insisted that one member from each family, whose land were acquired be given a job as per their qualification and monetary compensation for the families. The agricultural workers, have demanded that they be rehabilitated adequately and members of their families be given jobs at the plant. Farmers whose crops have been damaged as part of the project and whose borewells and electric transformers have been affected be also compensated adequately. Many of them, who have not been able to cultivate for four years and have seen their farm incomes dip in this period have demanded that the calculation of compensation must consider this aspect as well. The common-village land that was acquired also needs to be compensated and this must be passed onto the respective village councils for local development, the union demanded. In their demand letter, the union members have also asked for strict action on the police officers who abused their power and assaulted and jailed protesting farmers.

(First published on -