Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Urban Youth Internships on Agrarian Crisis at Amrita Bhoomi


Over the last month, Amrita Bhoomi has received many urban youths from Youth4Swaraj– a national level youth program run by young volunteers of the Swaraj India party.


A radical effort to engage urban youth in agrarian issues and politics, Youth4Swaraj has mobilized hundreds of students to go to the far corners of the country. They are assigned work with local organizations there to learn first-hand about the agrarian crisis from rural families.

This internship program is called Talash Bharat Ki (Hindi for the discovery of India). An earlier avatar was ‘drought duty’ when youth went to drought-hit parts of the country.

Amrita Bhoomi received two batches of students who came from across India- both north and south. It was a truly exciting opportunity. Each batch of youth stayed for a week.



They woke up each morning and did shramdan (Hindi for donating physical work) by working on the farm. The rest of the day consisted of some guest lectures and interactions with activists and academics. The evenings consisted of either watching educational films or field visits to villages close by- one was an Adivasi village, another was a Dalit village. In the villages, detailed surveys were carried out; these were prepared by the students themselves. The surveys went into details about general questions on rural life- land ownership, access to state programs and entitlements, credit situation, caste system, gender divisions among other. Results of the surveys were presented and connections were made to all that they had been learning throughout the week.

On one of the days, the students also participated in a Twitter storm to denounce the governments lies and false promises called #kisansejhoot.


One day was spent in a village with the Karnataka farmers organization KRRS which was planning a protest march. The youth joined the protest and also prepared a memorandum of demands from the District Collector.

For many of the youth, this was their first time learning about these issues. Others were well aware and wanted an opportunity to become connected with grassroots organizations. Many were eager to continue their association with the farmers’ movement and with Swaraj India. It was a truly enriching experience for both Amrita Bhoomi and Youth4Swaraj and we are happy to have been able to grow our political family.

Amrita Bhoomi plans to receive many more batches of such interns in the future.

For more information on Youth4Swaraj, see: https://www.y4s.org/vision-mission.html

Peasants’ Rights: South Asia Peasants, allies call upon States to support the UN Declaration

The All Nepal Peasant Federation(ANPFa), member of La Via Campesina and among the largest peasant organisations in the Nepal, hosted a South Asian Consultation on the proposed UN Declaration to protect the Rights of Peasants and Other people Working in Rural Areas.
The two days long consultation also witnessed participation from peasant organisation representatives in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. Allies from Focus on the Global South and several prominent members of the ruling coalition in Nepal also attended the meeting and elaborated on the Twenty Eight Articles that constitute this Declaration. They reflected on the role played by peasant organisations worldwide in creating a bottom-up process to develop such an instrument of justice.
The negotiations on the Declaration is now at a crucial moment within the UN Human Rights Council, with the draft text expected to be tabled for voting in September 2018. The Nepal government representatives, who took the stage during the first day of the consultation, have pledged their unflinching commitment to support this process within the Human Rights Council.
On the second day, the peasant organisations and allies also issued a detailed statement entitled the ‘Kathamandu Declaration’. Here is the full text:

We, the representatives of peasants, family farmers, women farmers , dalit peasants, landless and poor, rural women and rural youth, fishers and fisher folks, agricultural labourers and tenant farmers, indigenous peoples, food consumers, water users, and forest users from South Asia – who are members of the La Via Campesina, allies and friends of ANPFa including Government of Nepal, Minister for agriculture development, Member of Parliaments and other representative dignitaries, and Nepal human rights commission met in Kathmandu, Nepal to take our struggle forward for food sovereignty and to realize the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas.
We the peasants from South Asia, women and men, experienced and young alike, reiterate our rights on land, water and territories; right against all forms of discrimination; rights on seeds and livestock (including dairy and fisheries); right to fight agribusinesses, transnational organizations, free trade agreements and WTO; pledge to save Mother earth from climate change hazards and most importantly our commitment for achieving food sovereignty. We declare our solidarity to peasants all around the world as we direct our efforts to a fair and equal society recognizing peasants and communities serving humanity and our planet.
We consider Food Sovereignty and Agroecology as fundamental principles, and as alternative methods to cooling down the planet. We consider them as the only way of changing the current model imposed by agribusinesses and transnational companies. We reject neoliberal, patriarchal, and capitalist models that run counter to nature’s harmony and its relationship to human beings. We reiterate that peasant and indigenous agriculture is the only way of feeding humanity in a way that is healthy, sustainable, and that safeguards nature, environment, biodiversity and identities.
We believe that the present threats to the peasant communities are higher than ever. The governments are aligning themselves more and more with the imperialists, neo-liberalists and International Financial Institutions at the cost of age long good practices of peasants and rural people’s livelihood.
We demand the government to design policies suitable to our needs. Through this declaration, we ask the States to support the United Nations declaration on Peasants Rights which La Via Campesina has been fighting to achieve along with peasants and farmers organizations across the globe.
We demand that our governments uphold and ensure genuine agrarian reforms including the right to food and adequate nutrition, freedom from hunger, right to represent state mechanism for making constitution and law rights to an adequate standard of living for ourselves and our family through support and vote in favour of the United Nations Declaration on Rights of Peasants and other People Working in Rural Areas.
We acknowledge the right to equality of peasant women: equal rights and access to land, protection from all forms of violence, exploitation and discrimination, decision making, equal wages, health care, sexual and reproductive rights. We stress on the need of a collective struggle against patriarchy.
We reiterate our Right to Seed Sovereignty, water sovereignty, absolute freedom from GMOs, HYVs, and other green revolution farming techniques which are detrimental to our food systems.
We emphasize on our ‘right to reject’ and ‘right to choose and to be protected’. We want no interference with our traditional knowledge on seed preservation, and free exchange of seeds within farming community.
We lay emphasis on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and Pastoral communities including their right to self determination, right to autonomy or self government in their local affairs, right not to be forcibly evicted from their lands and territories.
We have been constructively engaging in this process of the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas, from the field, our workplaces around the world. We the peasants understand the current challenges facing the world’s food systems, and we continue to contribute to solve these challenges in a valuable manner.
After seventeen years of hard work, sincere efforts and dedicated deliberations, throughout the world, the process towards an International Instrument has made our movement and struggle growing stronger than ever. We have intensely been feeling the legal gaps with regard to the protection of peasants’ and other people working in rural areas right across the globe, leading us to stress at the international human rights level, come forward and fill this gap without further delay.
This is our Declaration, elaborated from the grassroots, cherishing so long and will keep defending it before the Human Rights Council of United Nations and before our national governments until its successful conclusion in this year 2018.
All peasants and other people working in rural areas around the world strongly identify themselves with the contents of this Declaration, which will be an instrument to restore and dignify our status in society, to recognize and protect our rights, and to guarantee conflict resolution with dialogue and in peaceful manner.
We are confident that the States will be readily willing to recognize the crucial rights of their respective rural populations. This is not only valuable for us individually and collectively – but also for all humanity, and it is in the interests of public and nature as well. In fact, the Declaration is going to be useful for governments because it can contribute to reduce social conflicts, food crisis and hunger, problems related to drug trafficking, women and child trafficking, poverty, migration towards cities; fighting environmental destruction and climate crisis; to improve the quality of our food; and to attract and keep more and more young people in farming and thrive in rural areas.
As we all stand here, in full knowledge that human rights prevail over profit and economic interests, as well as the alarming violations of the rights of peasants that occur systematically throughout the world, we thank all those States who have willingly supported it already and call upon remaining States to unite in order to recognize and further guarantee the realization of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas. States can no longer postpone the Declaration.
The time is ripe for the recognition and protection of our rights. Let us work to finalize this process and adopt this Declaration this year. After all, Peasants Rights strengthen not only agriculturists but States and entire population along with Mother Earth!

Monday, July 23, 2018

RCEP will be disastrous for Indian dairy farmers and agriculture: La Via Campesia South Asia during Bangkok negotiations

Kannaiyan Subramaniam, the General Secretary of South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM), a member of La Via Campesina South Asia, intervened during the 23rd RCEP negotiations held in BANGKOK on 23 July,2018. Here is the full text of his speech:

Vanakkam Honourable Chair and negotiators from 16 RCEP countries,
My name is Kannaiyan Subramaniam, I’m a small farmer from Tamil Nadu, India and representative of La Via Campesina, an international peasant movement with members in 81 countries, 182 farmers Unions comprising of over 200 million of small scale farmers families including agricultural workers and indigenous people.
I come from India where farmers are suffering due to crashing prices, import surges, land grabs, ever increasing cost of production and import driven crop pattern changes that put farmers in deeper and deeper crisis. As a result, more than 300,000 farmers have committed suicide after India committed to WTO policies of free trade.
As time is very limited, I will give few examples from my country on behalf of the farmers’ union.
Among the several million small and backyard dairy farmers producing milk in India, 95% are women. This is a mass production by the masses not by few big corporations. The income generated from dairy, is predominantly spent by women for welfare of the family. My own education is the result of hard work put in by my mother, who reared buffalo and cows. We have an impressive network of cooperatives, domestic private players, individual milk sellers, who together with the farmers made the country self-sufficient on milk. This is an excellent model that should be replicated in other developing countries.
But, RCEP is expecting member countries to slash the tariff to zero including for dairy. If India commits in RCEP that will bring disaster. RCEP will probably wipe out the small and backyard dairy farmers, and that will be nothing short of a suicidal step for a country that is self-sufficient. I’m not being an alarmist here, but I’m expressing our anguish based on our country’s experience in the case of edible oil and pulses.
Two decades ago, we started importing edible oil in very small quantity, but now India is depending more than 70% of edible oil from the imports coming predominantly from the countries like Indonesia and Malaysia. As the results farmers who produce edible oil are forced to be out of the production. Similar cases with pulses – in 2013 it was 38% and now it is more than 52% of what we import from RCEP member countries such as Myanmar and also Canada.
I would also like to highlight how in the middle of climate crisis that we are facing today, farmers need more diversity in our fields. And we can’t do that if RCEP prohibit our knowledge and ability to breed, save and exchange our seeds freely. India is not a member of UPOV 1991, We have our own Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers Right Act, 2001 that protects our own-farmers seeds. Under this Act farmers are entitled to save, use, sow, re-sow, exchange or sell their seed. Our public sector breeders and universities also produce high-quality and affordable seeds for the farmers.
Compelling the negotiating countries to be members of UPOV 1991 is an assault to biodiversity. It only gives more profit to seed companies, further burdening us farmers with higher costs of production, as our rights to keep, exchange and breed seeds for the next season are restricted or banned. This could further aggravate farmers’ debt due to high price we have to pay for seeds, and in India this could mean the death of farmers.
The governments have done mistake in trade negotiations, for example in WTO we have agreed to Agreement of agriculture (AoA) so that developed countries will reduce their subsidies and farmers in developing countries will benefit. But that never happened; import surges increased and deepened the crisis in country side, resulting in farmers’ suicide.
I would like to caution the negotiators particularly negotiators from India, Thailand, South Korea and other RCEP countries not to repeat these mistakes by continuing with this trade negotiation. At least in WTO, the text was open for the public but here you are negotiating secretly which is against the fundamental principles of democracy and undermining our life. The commitment in RCEP will eliminate the policy space for governments to protect their farmers. Governments will lose their sovereign rights and we, farmers will lose our food sovereignty. So, I very humbly request all of you of 16 governments to discontinue this free trade negotiation and build the trade based on cooperation.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Karnataka Farmers protest seeking special package for revival of the agricultural sector and rejuvenation of the rural economy.

21st July, Observing 39th Farmers Martyr Day , Thousands of Farmers, under the banner of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru Sene, blocked National Highways near Huligi Cross in Koppal district on Saturday demanding farm loan waiver and strict implementation of minimum support price.

Addressing the farmers rally Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha and Hasiru sene leaders gave a strong message to the government that "Relief from Debt is not our demand. The Center and the State Government have to plan the policies such that farmers never ask for the debt waiver. This drastic situation has been created by the governments and they are responsible for it. The corrupt governments have pushed the farmer who feeds the entire nation to the roads."

KRRS honorary president Chmaras Malipatil said that "The Chief Minister, who had promised to waive all the farm loans,has imposed many conditions and agreed to give relief only for the crop loan. "We demand that government write off all the farm loans and give the farmers price for their crops as recommended by Dr Swaminathan in his report," he said.
Mr Malipatil said the government had not considered the plight of big farmers who took huge loans. "Is the government aware of the plight of big farmers who grow huge quantity of crops taking loans from banks, and suddenly the prices crash. The government cannot reduce the scope of the scheme by putting in number of conditions. It has to waive Rs 1.20 lakh crore," he added.

Farmers' leader JM Veerasangaya said that "The state has witnessed many atrocities against the farmers in the recent years. Many false cases have been registered and farmers are struggling with this situation while continuing to fight many other problems of agriculture such as crop and market failure", he said.
The agitating farmers took the highway under their control for almost 6 hours. They paid tributes to the Naragunda-Navalagunda martyrs and lakhs of other farmers who gave up their life due to erroneous neoliberal policies of the Indian government. 

Farmers have warned the government to intensify the protests in the state through another round of actions in the state on Independence day, August 15, if the promises are not fulfilled by the State government.

Main demands of the agitating farmers :
*All the outstanding debt of farmers should be completely waived as stated in the JDS manifesto, the loan waiver should be declared by August 14.
*In the 2nd phase,  the government should waive the loan taken for other agricultural purposes such as land development loans, tractor, pumpsets, livestock and fisheries.
*The credit lending policies of the banks should be simplified and access to the institutional credit must be made easy.
*Central government should announce special packages for agriculture and farmers.
*Dr Swaminathan report should be implemented at the earliest.
*Inter state water disputes should be settled. The Mahadayi case should be solved. Special emphasis should be given on extending irrigation to North Karnataka region.
*The Israeli model of farming must be abandoned, sustainable ZBNF model must be implemented
* English should be taught as a language from class 1 in the Government Kannada Medium Schools. The government should not shut down the existing government schools in rural areas and must strengthen the existing school education system in Karnataka.

Link to Facebook live video of the protest. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sericulture farmers stage protest in Karnataka

Sericulture farmers stage protest in Kolar

Sericulture farmers taking out a procession in Kolar.

Sericulture farmers on Monday staged a protest in the Kolara town expressing anguish over the steep fall in prices of silk cocoons.

Organised under the banner of Reshme Belegarara Jitharakshana Samiti and Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, the sericulturists took out a procession from Government Silk Market. Buullock carts carrying cocoon were part of the procession to attract the attention of the authorities. The protest disrupted the traffic for some time.

The protesters demanded that the government should ensure a stable price of ₹ 350 per kg of cocoons to save the farmers from distress. “The Karnataka Silk Marketing Board should be revived in this connection”, they said.

The fall in prices of cocoons from ₹ 300 - ₹ 600 to around ₹ 100 to ₹ 250 per kg has left farmers in the lurch, farmers’ leader Chinnapura Narayanaswamy said. “Suicide by a sericulture farmer in a Kolar village a few days ago sheds light on the situation”, he added.

Hundreds of farmers take part in protest against Centre’s economic policies in Mandya

Sericulture farmers staging a protest on the Bengaluru-Mysuru highway in Mandya

The another protest was organised by ‘Mandya District Sericulture Growers Forum’ in the Mandya town. Hundreds of farmers from across Mandya and Ramanagaram districts participated in the demonstration. A rally was also taken out on the highway before the commencement of the demonstration.

The protesting farmers criticised Indian government for destroying the lives of sericulture growers through its economic policies.They wanted Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ban the import of silk, impose at least 32% of cess on the import of raw silk, announce minimum support price [of at least Rs. 550 a kg of cocoon] and provide financial assistance to sericulture and mulberry growers.

The cocoons which were selling at Rs. 450-550 a kg now cost Rs. 120-150 owing to the economic policies of the Centre, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS) district president Shambhunahalli Suresh said. Making mandatory the purchase of cocoons at minimum support price through the Karnataka Silk Marketing Board (KSMB) and the Karnataka Silk Industries Corporation (KSIC) could improve the livelihood of sericulture growers, he opined.

These reports were first published in The Hindu, The Hindu

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Are Farmers of Karnataka Being Deceived by False Promises of the Government?

Farmers in the state of Karnataka gathered in protest in Bengaluru on July 9 against the loan waiver scheme announced by HD Kumaraswamy, Chief Minister of Karnataka. The protesting farmers argued that they have been deceived by the current government. In its election manifesto, the JD(S) had stated that the government would waive off all agriculture loans in a single go. This would include crop loans, horticulture loans, and medium-term loans availed by the Karnataka farmers.
This loan waiver scheme, however, proposes to waive off loans in phases and not on a one-time basis. The farmers were demanding for a full loan waiver scheme. In the current scheme, the CM has announced waivers amounting to Rs 34,000 crore, while the total farm loans amount to around Rs 1.20 lakh crore. The government will reimburse Rs 10,500 crore to banks for the loan waiver this year, and will be generating funds for the rest of the amount through an increase in taxes on fuel, electricity, motor vehicles and alcohol, as announced in the budget. In the second phase, an incentive of Rs 25,000 would be distributed to the 27.67 lakh farmers who repaid their loans on time ‘to prevent complaints that only defaulters have benefited’.
Protesting the scheme, the farmers marched from Maurya Hotel in Anand Rao circle to Freedom Park. The protest concluded with an open meeting of all farmers, in which a decision to occupy Vidhana Soudha was taken. The protesters were stopped by the police leading to clashes between the two. The farmers protested the intervention and the behaviour of the police. Several farmer leaders and forty of the protesting farmers were detained.
Prajavani, a Kannada daily, reported that Bandeppa Kashempur, the minister for co-operation in Karnataka, met the protesting farmers. Kashempur reportedly said that he would convey the demands of the farmers to the CM and also organise a meeting of the farmers with the CM. The farmers have withdrawn their protest with this promise.
Kodihalli Chandrashekar, the leader of Hasiru Sene of Karnataka Rajya Rayta Sangha (KRRS), announced a protest meet in Haveri on July 21, 2018.
Chukki Najundaswamy of KRRS, speaking to Newsclick, observed that irrespective of which faction of KRRS, or which farmers’ organisation one belongs to, no one is happy with the budget and the loan waiver scheme. However, recognising that loan waivers are a short term goal and will not benefit farmers in the long run, she also pointed that “loan waiver is a political agenda.” Calling the budget “directionless,” Chukki noted that “there is a need for a perspective in this budget.” The farmers in the state are in deep distress and it is only the farming communities that can do something about these issues. For this, the governments have to provide them with the support required. Giving the example of climate change, the activist pointed out that instead of adopting agro-ecological farming, there have been allocations for all sorts of technologies.
The budget also emphasises on farmers adopting Israeli farming technologies along with Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF). In the budget, the government has allocated Rs 350 crore to the former and a mere Rs 50 crore to the later. Rs 150 crore in phase I is said to have been allocated for the Israeli model of irrigation facility on 5,000 hectares of dryland in each of the parched districts of Kolar, Chitradurga, Koppal, and Gadag. Another Rs 150 crore has been allocated for adopting a water-efficient irrigation model in the horticulture sector on 5,000 hectares each in Uttara Kannada, Tumakuru, Yadgir, and Haveri.
Commenting on this, Chukki remarked, “There is nothing new that the proposed Israeli model of irrigation would contribute. The CM, just to show that he cares for the farmers, is doing only things he has heard about. This is just a directionless budget.”
The losses incurred by the farmers in the last four years due to drought have made it impossible for them to repay their loans. According to the statistics provided by the State Agriculture Department, 3,515 farmers were reported to have committed suicide from April 2013 to November 2017, which is a sharp increase from 1,125 cases of farmer suicides in the period April 2008 to April 2012. Out of the 3,515 suicide cases reported,2,525 cases were due to drought and crop failure. The loan waiver scheme would serve as a short term relief to the drought hit farmers. But a dialogue between the state government and the farmers is necessary. As Chukki indicated, there is a need for debate and discussion on the issue of allocation for agriculture in the budget.
The farmers in the state, under the banner of Hasiru Sene, will be protesting in Haveri on July 21, 2018. This will be followed by protests and demonstrations from various organisations across the state.
This report was originally published in NewsClick.