Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Reject Peace Clause on G-33 Proposal in WTO Bali Ministerial; Protect Farmers’ Livelihoods and People’s Right to Access Food

The All India Kisan Sabha has released this press statement:

In the context of the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) 9th Ministerial Conference slated to be held in Bali in December 2013, the All India Kisan Sabha (AIKS) calls upon the UPA Government to intervene to protect the livelihoods of millions of our farmers and remain committed to our sovereign right to decide upon our price support policy as well as food security programme. The WTO induced policies of trade liberalisation has led to adverse implications for the Indian peasantry especially the poor and marginal farmers. AIKS has strongly opposed the WTO and especially the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) which calls for cutting down agricultural subsidies in the developing countries on the pretext that they were “trade distorting”. AIKS calls for rejecting the Interim Solution suggested by the WTO Director General Roberto Azvedo to the G-33 Proposal. The proposed Interim Solution is detrimental to the interests of the developing countries and millions of farmers. 

The WTO Director General put forward a Peace Clause or Due Restraint Clause as a fait accompli to the G-33 countries with an arrogant “take it or leave it” stance. This will have adverse implications for the Procurement Policy and the Food Security Programme of the country. The WTO agenda remains to prise open the markets of the Third World Countries to the agribusinesses and to provide them an unregulated access.

The so-called Peace Clause restricts India and other developing countries’ right to provide subsidies or support to crops. It suggests that only “traditional staple food crops” may be extended subsidies for a stipulated period of 4 years extending till the 11th Ministerial Conference of WTO with an understanding that no member shall challenge it through WTO’s Dispute Settlement Mechanism till then. Already the AoA only allows de minimis subsidy of 10 percent of production cost for most developing countries. This itself defies logic and is calculated based on a fixed reference price of 1986-88 when prices were much lower. It thereby shows inflated subsidies while remaining totally oblivious to the present day global agricultural prices. It also calculates subsidy on the basis of total production receiving subsidy rather than the actual procurement.

In addition the developed capitalist countries which are seeking to impose such restrictions have flexibility to retain high levels of subsidies in the form of direct transfers, food stamps and other measures. The USA and the European Union are going ahead with their domestic subsidies as well as export subsidies by conveniently shifting subsidies to the Green Box and has refused to comply with the stipulated 20 percent reduction in their Aggregate Measurement of Support. The USA has more than doubled its subsidy from US $ 61 Billion to US $ 130 Billion between 1995 and 2010 while the EU subsidies hover around € 90 to 79 Billion between 2006-09.  In 2012 USA spent US $ 100 Billion for its food aid programmes while India’s food subsidy bill is expected to be less than US $20 Billion only.

Subsidies that seek to bring in a semblance of livelihood security and food security in impoverished countries cannot be treated as “trade distorting”. Acquisition of food stocks to ensure food security needs and support for resource-poor, small and marginal farmers to provide minimum livelihood security cannot be given up. Procurement on grounds of food security or support for poor and marginal farmers must be exempt from all restrictions. AIKS reiterates that this falls strictly within the realm of our sovereign State policy and the Government should speed up efforts to extricate India and other Third World countries from such unequal and unfair restrictions. The huge disparities in permissible agricultural support levels between developed and developing countries needs to be eliminated. In the interim period the reference price needs to be updated by accounting for inflation and increased costs and levels of price support should be computed on the basis of actual quantity procured rather than the actual quantity produced. India should effectively intervene to safeguard these rights. AIKS demands that the developed countries’ domestic and export subsidies in the Green Box should be challenged and eliminated. India should take the lead to unite all the developing and Third World countries to restructure and overturn the unequal WTO regime.

Amra Ram                                 


Hannan Mollah
General Secretary

Press Statement of the All India Kisan Sabha on the order on the Kasturirangan report

Save People’s Livelihoods and Western Ghats; Withdraw the Order on HLWG (Kasturirangan Committee) Report

The All India Kisan Sabha strongly condemns the office memorandum dated 16th November 2013 issued by the Ministry of Environment and Forest, accepting ‘in principle’ the High Level Working Group (HLWG) popularly known as the ‘Kasturirangan Committee’ Report and restricting agricultural and basic developmental activities in 4156 villages in the Western Ghat region. We demand immediate withdrawal of the same. The authoritarian manner, in which the order was issued, without considering the objections and suggestions made by the peasants and various other sections of the people, is highly objectionable. The HLWG under the leadership of Dr.Kasturirangan, formed to “submit an Action Plan to implement the WGEEP (Western Ghat Ecological Expert Panel popularly known as the Madhav Gadgil Committee) Report in the most effective and holistic manner”, and also to examine the Report keeping in view the “needs and aspirations of the local and indigenous people” has failed to address the grievances raised by the peasants and other toiling sections living in Western Ghat region.

In the context of the two Reports having contradictory recommendations, unilaterally choosing one over the other has only led to pitting precarious human livelihoods in the region against the ecological sensitive nature of the region as though people who have lived for generations in the region are wilful destroyers of the fragile ecosystem. Both the Reports ignore the fact that the people in these regions have been the most effective conservators and have coexisted with as well as actively protected the wildlife and biodiversity of the region. The Reports are at best a bureaucratic exercise without any democratic approach and is also not grounded on scientific assessment of the human-environment relationship in the region. AIKS demands that a scientific assessment by a broad-based Committee of social scientists, environmental experts, organisations of the peasantry and with adequate representation of the varied political opinions from the affected States be set up to look into the matter. Broad based consultations and public hearings with the people and all stake-holders must be held before arriving at a Comprehensive Plan for Protection of Fragile Ecosystems and Livelihoods. 

Unmindful of widespread protests the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) has now hastily initiated steps to operationalise Kasturirangan Committee’s recommendations declaring 4156 villages in six States (99 in Goa, 64 in Gujarat, 1576 in Karnataka, 123 in Kerala, 2159 in Maharashtra and 135 in Tamil Nadu) as Ecologically Sensitive Zones (ESZ) and thereby restricting agricultural and basic developmental activities in the region. The declaration of the ESZs, basing revenue villages as the demarcation, is also unscientific.

The recommendations of the WGEEP on land use prohibiting use of land, for any purpose except for extension of village settlements for increasing populations, in the ESZ which have been endorsed by HLWG, is now by this order accepted by the Government of India. This will restrict even facilitation of basic amenities like hospitals and schools to the people of this most backward region. This is not at all acceptable. Restriction of agricultural activities by banning monoculture plantation which may include coffee, prohibiting chemical fertilisers, mandatory organic farming etc. are unacceptable. All these recommendations are now accepted by the Ministry by its order on 16th November. Hence, the claim by Union Minister Smt. Jayanthi Natarajan that there is nothing in the order that adversely affects the farmers is baseless.

While reiterating its deep commitment to the protection of environment, the AIKS rejects the approach of considering the environmental question demarcating it from humanity and civilization. Environmentally sound development cannot prohibit livelihood and economic options for the people of the region. In its recommendations, the WGEEP Report failed to address the socio-economic aspects of the issue. Both the Reports did not study the impact of the degradation of environment in the life of various social sections. They failed to suggest fruitful solutions to protect life and crops of peasants by solving the man-animal conflicts in forest border areas, to conserve flora and fauna in protected area, and preserve paddy fields and water bodies in the entire Western Ghats.

AIKS rejects the approach of categorising the peasantry at par with the mining and forest mafia as the destroyers of the environment. AIKS believes that peasants are always in the forefront in protecting the environment. The Government of India should understand that the support and conscious intervention of the local peasantry and local people are crucial for the protection of Western Ghats.

The decision of the MoEF to accept the HLWG report in principle has led to widespread protest in these States. AIKS supports the agitations by the people against the anti-peasant, anti-people recommendations of both the Reports and calls upon all its units to join the protest actions.

AIKS demands that the MoEF discuss with the peasant organisations and all others concerned, drop the anti-peasant, anti-people recommendations in both WGEEP and HLWG Reports and take a holistic approach and plan of action to protect the Western Ghats. The doubts and insecurities in the minds of people of the region have been created by the State and Central Governments and effective steps have to be taken to reassure the millions of people that their livelihood security will be ensured and genuine developmental activities in their habitats will be promoted.

Amra Ram

Hannan Mollah
General Secretary

Dated 20th November 2013