Tag: India farm laws

Indian farmers’ organizations reject Supreme Court intervention, will continue protest

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Farmers in India launched a major protest against the three laws towards the end of November and have been camped in the outskirts of New Delhi.

India’s Supreme Court stayed the implementation of the three farm laws that have led to huge protests across the country. It also formed a committee to hold discussions. However, farmers’ organizations say the onus is on the government to repeal the laws.

Farmers’ movements in India have rejected the Supreme Court’s intervention on the protests that have been raging across the country against the farm laws. On Tuesday, January 12, the Supreme Court of India, ordered a stay in the implementation of the three farm laws, until “further orders”. The court also constituted a four-member committee to come up with a mechanism to resolve the impasse between the Narendra Modi-led central government and the protesting farmers.

Farmers’ organizations launched a major round of protests on November 26 against the laws which were rammed through parliament by the Modi government in September. The farmers fear these laws will drive down the prices they get for their products and increase the role of corporates in agriculture. Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi demanding the repeal of the laws.

The Supreme Court made the decision while hearing a batch of petitions against the farm laws, on the violation of the rights of the protesters and some also pertaining to the farmers’ blockade at major entry points to Delhi. The order, passed by a bench chaired by the Chief Justice of India, comes after eight rounds of talks over the past three months between farmers’ organizations and the government yielded no resolution.

While the stay order on the three laws was received with mixed reactions, farmers’ groups are extremely wary of court-mediated negotiations. Organizers and leaders of the protest continue to assert that they will not back down until the three laws are repealed.

Balbir Singh Rajewal, the president of the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), one of the protesting groups, said, “The government wants to shift its pressure by forming a committee via Supreme Court. But we won’t let it happen. And therefore, we will not talk to any such committee. The laws have been brought by the government, not by the court. Therefore, we will continue talking with the government panel only till the legislation are repealed. The government cannot escape from its accountability.”

In a statement released on Monday by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), a coalition of over 40 farmers’ groups, movement leaders have refused to participate in the newly-formed committee’s deliberations.

“While all organizations welcome the suggestions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court to stay the implementation of the farm laws, they are collectively and individually not willing to participate in any proceedings before a committee that may be appointed by the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” read the statement.

The All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC), an umbrella body of over 250 farmers’ and peasants’ unions participating in the SKM, released a statement shortly after the court passed its order, reiterating the movement’s stand. The statement pointed out that the apprehensions held by the movement were vindicated with the formation of the committee and the four people appointed for it.

“It is clear that the Court is being misguided by various forces even in its constitution of a committee,” the AIKSCC statement said. “These are people who are known for their support to the 3 Acts and have actively advocated for the same.”

The members include two economists, Ashok Gulati and P. K. Joshi, both of whom are known for their advocacy of free-market economics, and the liberalization of India’s agricultural sector. The other two, Anil Ghanwat and Bhupinder Singh Mann, are leaders of farmers’ groups that have for long advocated for a technocratic and private capital-led development of the agricultural sector.

Surjit Singh Phool, a farmer leader participating in the protests, stated that all four members “have declared positions in support of the agricultural laws.” He also added that the “court itself has given a good reason to the protesting farmers to boycott this committee”

Meanwhile, the number of farmers camped at the border of Delhi has only grown over the past few weeks, with thousands more pouring in from across the country. Recently, groups of farmers have arrived from far away states like Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala.

The women’s movement has also participated in large numbers from across the country, with a large delegation of women farmers from the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Punjab being mobilized under the umbrella of All India Democratic Women’s Association and Centre of Indian Trade Unions.

At the same time, protesting farmers are also gearing up for intensifying the struggle across the country. Responding to the court’s order, Rakesh Tikait, leader of one of SKM constituent Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), stated that his group will continue with the planned protests in India’s most populous state of Uttar Pradesh.

The AIKSCC statement also added that protests “will continue as per the earlier announcement on January 13, 18, and 23. Farmers wish to interact with the government, not engage with the Supreme Court, where farmers did not present themselves. So no comment on it, no offense to it.”

Farmers’ groups are also planning a major show of strength on January 26, India’s Republic Day, with a Kisan Parade (Farmers’ Parade). Protesting farmers are expected to ride their tractors into the national capital, in a parallel Republic Day parade coinciding with the official parade to be held by the Indian government.

Source- PD,January 12, 2021

Farm laws ‘precursor’ to free trade deal envisaged by US corporates to allow GMO

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By Rajiv Shah

Did the Government of India come up with the three farm laws, first rushed by promulgating ordinances in June 2020, to not just open the country’s agricultural sector to the corporate sector but also as a precursor to comply with the requirements of the United States for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA), as envisaged by the outgoing US president Donald Trump?
A Barcelona (Spain)-based international non-profit organization, claiming to work to support small farmers and biodiversity-based food systems suggested in a comprehensive paper published on May 26, 2020, suggests that this is what may have happened. Analysts, quoting US officials, say, a change in the US administration may, at best, may delay the FTA process, not abandon it.

According to the non-profit, GRAIN, an Indo-US trade agreement would be on lines of US deals over the last three years with South Korea, China, Canada, and Mexico. Insisting that the whole idea of FTA is to access Indian markets in every possible way, GRAIN thinks, it would also mean the reversal of India’s current policy of protecting farmers. It says, “Agriculture in the US, which is heavily controlled by large agribusiness corporations, is highly dependent on exports. However, despite numerous attempts, the US has never managed to get India to open its markets to US farm goods.”

Suggesting that things began in September 2019 when Modi went to the US, with President Donald Trump announcing that he was working to expand US exports to India, GRAIN says, “Immediately after, India withdrew from the Asia-Pacific wide trade negotiations for the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Commerce Minister announced that India had begun exploring trade agreements with the US and the European Union (EU).”

Insists GRAIN, “A US-India FTA could be worse than RCEP. India’s farmers, having an average landholding of one hectare, will be forced to compete with US farmers whose average landholding is 176 hectares. There are 2.1 million farms across the US employing less than 2% of the population, with an average annual on-farm income per farm household of $18,637.11 Whereas more than half of India’s 1.3 billion that depend on agriculture do so for their livelihoods, with the average annual income of per farm household (from all sources) at less than US$1000.”

Pointing towards what an FTA with India could contain, GRAIN states, it would not just be about tariffs. It would “impose major changes” in regulatory frameworks, including “greater harmonization of health, safety, and marketing standards in order to expand trade in agriculture and food products.” In fact, it would mean allowing free marketing of genetically modified seeds to India – as seen in US-Mexico-Canada Agreement or USMCA.

“Harmonisation under US FTAs means bringing other countries closer into line with the US’ lack of health and safety precautions restrictions should be minimalized so that trade can grow”, says GRAIN, adding, “The USMCA contains a new chapter on regulatory good practices and another on sanitary measures that go further in advancing ‘equivalence’ between the three countries’ health and safety standards. The goal is to ensure that if one country says a product is safe under its regulations, the other two will accept the product as safe under theirs – and to speed up these determinations as much as possible.”

“The US seed industry is very excited about how the USMCA recognizes the importance of plant breeding innovation, including newer methods like gene editing, and contains provisions enhancing information exchange and cooperation related to the trade of agricultural biotechnology”, GRAIN says.

It adds, “Similarly, the US-China trade deal imposes speedier food safety checks for imports into China and speedier approvals in China for GMOs. As a result of the deal, China allowed the import of GM papaya and soybean from the US in December 2019, and the following month approved five GM crops for animal feed.”

FTA would mean a reversal of current Indian policy, under which no biotechnology-derived food crop is approved for consumption
In the trade talks between the US and UK, GRAIN states, the US agribusiness lobby pushed for “slashing of regulatory standards in the UK on pesticides, GM crops, and the production of chicken and meat products. Cargill, for instance, has demanded that the US seek “complete agricultural market access” for its company and “eliminate intended or unintended non-tariff barriers in the agriculture sector”, GRAIN points out, adding, “These could have far-reaching implications for food safety in the UK as it would force the country to open its border to hormone-fed beef, chlorine-washed chicken and GM foods that until now are banned in the UK.”

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Modi, Trump at Hyderabad House, Feb 25, 2020

According to GRAIN, “India will have a fierce battle on this front if the FTA talks move ahead. In 2018, the US-India Business Council already came out with a recommendation that food products marketed in India with 5% or more GM ingredients be labeled accordingly. This was seen as a backhanded attempt to introduce GM food in India, where it is currently not allowed. US companies have equally been trying for the last several years to get India to import GM animal feed. Recently, India’s GM regulatory body has sought more inputs to possibly allow this. So, US corporate pressure to loosen restrictions in India is already happening.”

According to GRAIN, “Both the USMCA and US-China FTA contain provisions on the ‘low level presence’ of GMOs in imported food or agricultural products. The USMCA text requires importing countries like Mexico to ensure that the ‘inadvertent’ presence of GM material in food or farm products be dealt with very quickly and taking into account the safety approval for the product on the exporters’ side. In other words, the low-level presence of GM ingredients should be permitted, regardless of different national laws. The US-China phase one FTA provides for the same.”

GRAIN says, any Indo-US FTA on farm products would mean a reversal of the current Indian policy, under which “no biotechnology-derived food crop has been approved for consumption in India.” It states, “The ‘low level presence’ provisions would legalize contamination of India’s food system with GM materials not approved by India’s food safety authority for human consumption”, adding, “USMCA and US-China agreement both have sections on agricultural biotechnology which contain obligations for speeding up the approval process for GMOs.”

GRAIN thinks, “Another important concern about Trump’s trade deals is their requirement to ratify the 1991 convention of the Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties (UPOV) providing patent-like rights to seed companies.” Pointing out that “it has been a core element of US FTAs since the 1990s”, GRAIN says, “The USMCA obliges Mexico, which is a member of UPOV under the 1978 convention, to upgrade to the much harsher UPOV 1991 version. The US seed industry is very excited about this, calling it ‘a win’ for them.”

As India has a policy not to join the UPOV convention in order to protect the interests of its millions of small farmers and non-corporate breeders, GRAIN suggests, a new “US-India FTA will have serious implications for farmers’ rights in India if the government is put under pressure to join UPOV. Given the recent scandal over Indian farmers allegedly infringing a PepsiCo potato variety in 2019, it is quite possible that the US seed industry will push for stronger seed monopoly rights under the US-India FTA and eliminate possibilities for farmers to save seeds.”

Source- counterview.net, 29 December 2020.

Pro-farmer newsletter launched as 95,000 trolleys line up Delhi border

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By Counterview

Supporters of farmers’ protest have begun publishing “Trolley Times”, a newsletter in Punjabi, Hindi, and English. Not the official mouthpiece of the Sankyukt Kisan Morcha, or the Farmers’ Coordination Committee, the non-political body which is leading the struggle around Delhi, The “Trolley Times” is being brought out by writers, artists, activists in support of the Morcha.
Introducing the “Trolley Times”, and called the “Voice of Kisan Protest”, those who are behind its publication says that its team has been working round the clock to choose write-ups that “look beyond differences” that may be existing within the Morcha, with the singular aim of bringing about a “unity of farmers, laborers, and other sections.”

A note forwarded to Counterview on “Trolley Times” by a journalist-activist, states, the humble four-pager in the three languages is being brought out by Gurdeep Dhaliwal, Navkiran Natt, Jassi Sangha, Ajaypal Natt, Jasdeep Singh, Thukral Tagra, Narinder Bhinder, and Surmeet Maavi, among others.

Text of the note:

Over 95,000 trolleys are lined up in the crack of winter at Delhi borders, protesting over the farm bills. In this newsletter, we are trying to bring out protesters’ stories to them while they are camped out at Delhi borders. Our intent, without malice and an ulterior motive, is to simply represent peoples’ voices. In order to do so, we are reaching out to different writers and artists to seek their contributions.
We are aware that partisan publishing representation can create rifts in the movement. Our team works round the clock to choose write-ups that look beyond such differences and commit to the progress of the current movement that is exemplary because of the unity of farmers, laborers, and other sections.
The newsletter is made to clarify the real news in the midst of fake news, printed in Punjabi and Hindi, this four-page humble beginning is written with hope and optimism. On the first page, we will have briefs on the direction and the state of the morcha. The rest of the pages will contain writings, pictures, and artworks by contributors.

“Trolley Times” is inspired by the historic mobilization and able leadership of all the farmers and farmworker organizations. The morcha has provided vigor to the farmers and farmworkers of not only the Punjab-Haryana region but all over India.

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On the one hand, the organizations have empowered and organized people to create the mass political awakening, on the other hand, the leaders of the organizations have pressurized the ruling and opposition political parties to speak the language of people’s welfare.
It has brought hope to well-wishers of solidarities and welfarist policies all over the world. The organizations’ leadership has worked resolutely to tread the ideological differences between themselves and bring this united movement to a point where its ultimate conclusion is victory.
Long live farmer-laborer unity.

Click HERE for the Punjabi-Hindi newsletter, and HERE for the English newsletter of “Trolley Times”

Source- counterview.net, 23 December 2020.

Indian govt. defends itself as ‘pro-farmer’ with 106 pages E-booklet, as farmers’ stir continues

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By SAT News Desk

The Indian farmers’ agitation against three new farm laws passed by the Indian government has been on for many days and thousands are rallying on the outskirts of Delhi. The mainly Punjab, Haryana, and UP farmers have been joined by others from many other states across India. There have been solidarity actions with farmers across many countries. Many rounds of talks have not succeeded.

To counter the rising tide of farmers the Indian government is taking many steps and one of them has been 106 pages of an E-booklet emailed globally.

Attached below is the booklet:

Putting-Farmers-First

82 groups from 25 countries support Indian farmers’ stir

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By Counterview Desk

International organizations and individuals from more than 25 countries, extending their solidarity to the ongoing farmers’ agitation, have called it “a beacon of hope to the millions of Indians who have been ridden over roughshod by the current government”, said India’s premier civil society network, National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM), distributing a statement by tens of groups from across the world.

The statement, signed by 82 people’s organizations, civil society groups, social movements, and concerned individuals, said, they consider the enactment of the three farm laws as “subversion of democratic norms”. Calling the three laws “pro-corporate” against “farmers, workers and toiling masses”, the signatories urged the Government of India (GoI) to talk to farmers and repeal the three laws immediately.

The statement comes close on the heel of the wide global coverage of the agitation in international media and demonstrations organized in several European and North American cities by Indian diaspora and others, as also questions raised in the British Parliament on the way the farmers’ protests have been treated by the GoI.

Text:

We stand in solidarity with the ongoing historic farmers’ protest in India and extend support to their demands. On June 5, 2020, amidst the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government of India hastily passed three ordinances namely Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.

By September 2020, these ordinances were made into law without sufficient parliamentary discussion or any talks with the farmer’s representative and its possible ramifications on their lives.

It is worrying to see the subversion of democratic norms and enactment of pro-corporate laws against farmers, workers and toiling masses. India already witnessed a huge humanitarian crisis in wake of the strict lockdown and millions of migrant workers, small and marginal farmers were left to fend for themselves, as the institutional mechanisms were not set in place to safeguard them.
There is an unfolding economic crisis but rather than taking steps to help people, another set of anti-people laws have been passed further affecting millions of people again.

The farms’ bills are going to affect not only the farmers of India but also the agricultural workers, small traders, and common people and promote large-scale corporate control of the farming sector impacting food security and sovereignty.

Farmers and workers have been protesting these laws since their inception and then passage in Parliament. With the demand to repeal these three farm laws, Thousands of farmers from across India started their march towards Delhi on November 25, 2020. They were stopped at the State borders, brutally lathi-charged, and faced tear gas shells and water cannons on the way.

They are camping for two weeks now at the borders of Delhi and were joined by trade unions, small traders associations, feminist organizations, and others in their call for all India strike on December 8th. Support from different parts of the world has been pouring in too and farmers’ protests have also stood with the political prisoners in India, broadening the ambit of the struggle for social justice.

We urge the Government of India to talk to farmers and repeal these anti-farmer laws. We stand in solidarity with the farmers and agrarian workers in their strike for justice, freedom, and sovereignty.

Click here for signatories

Source- counterview.net, 17 December 2020.