Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Farmers to hold rally on March 1 at Kurukshetra

CHANDIGARH: Farmers' organisation Bhartiya Kisan Union today said it would hold a rally in the state on March 1 to protest against the Centre's alleged failure to implement a series of welfare policies for the farming sector.
"The protest rally will be held at Kurukshetra and scores of farmers from Punjab and Haryana are expected to take part in it," BKU President (Punjab) Ajmer Singh Lakhowal told reporters here today.
Among the key demands will be the fixation of the Minimum Support Price of rice and wheat as per the Swaminathan Commission report, which recommends 50 per cent profit of total cost to farmers, said Lakhowal
Pension for farmers, separate budget for agriculture on the lines of railways, MSP for all crops, crop loans and complete loan waiver for the farming sector are other issues that will be raised, he said.
BKU national spokesman Rakesh Tikait said that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had assured on March 8, 2011 that the pending demands of farmers would be accepted soon.
"But now farmers do not have any option except protest," he said.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Farmers' demands on India's budget for 2012

A deligation of Bhartiya Kisan Unioun (BKU Tikait) has a meeting with
Finance MInister Mr. I. S. Gujaral on February 17, 2012 at 02.00 p.m.
and submitted a memorandum on issues and concerns related to the

In discussion the Finance Minister assured to look into the matter positively.

Shri Pranab Mukherji,
Union Minister of Finance
Government of India
New Delhi
Sub: Farmers' demands on India's budget for 2012

As India's farmers we bring to your attention the fundamental role played by the agriculture sector in not only ensuring the sovereignty of our nation by securing the food of our people but also in providing livelihoods to more than half of the population. Unfortunately, misdirected policies in agriculture are leading to ecological collapse as well as social disasters like farmers suicides. In order to address this agrarian crisis, India's farmers have consistently been demanding a separate agriculture budget among other things.

The budget should strongly prioritize the agriculture sector in order to revive it. It should work to provide dignified ad sustainable livelihoods to rural men and women and ensure the food sovereignty of our country by locally sourcing the food needed to feed our nation and end hunger once and for all. It should primarily strengthen the abilities of small, medium and marginal farming men and women, as well as farm workers - those whose vocation mainly feeds us as compared to profit obsessed agribusiness. It should also work to repair our lands and restore the ecology which have been harmed by the uncontrolled use of chemicals from the green revolution technologies. A holistic budget to revive India's agriculture and farming populations is the need of the day if we are to confront the challenges of poverty, hunger, ecological devastation and climate change that face us.

Below are our specific demands on agriculture in the budget:-

  1. Since agriculture employs more than half of India's population, 40% of the total budget should be allocated to agriculture. We also need a completely separate budget for agriculture just as there exists for railways.

  2. The majority of the budget allocated to agriculture should focus on schemes to promote ecological and organic type of farming. 50% of this should focus dry land farming. These schemes need to be monitored and implemented properly. This is the only way that we can realisticaly ensure that our farmers can make the transition to ecological ways of farming and stop using harmful chemicals.

  3. The fertilizer subsidy should go directly to the farmers and not the chemical fertilizer companies. This way, farmers can have the power to chose what kind of fertilizer they want to use and the option to invest in ecological fertilizers.

  1. Agricultural loans should be provided to farmers on a 0% interest rate. Given the terrible economic condition of the farming community and high econmic burdnes they face, they are not in a condition to bear an additional interest burden on loans. Also all older loans should be waived.

  2. A social security fund for all farm households should be set up, including for agricultural workers, which includes pension, maternity benefits, life, accident and health insurance. Farmers both men and women above 60 years of age must receive a pension like all other government employees. Widows of farmers who have died must also receive a pension and all their loans must be waived off.

  3. A ‘Price Compensation mechanism’ should be set up which will ensure that farmers receive a fair price for their produce.  The National Farmers Commission recommended that farmers should be paid at least 1.5 times the Cost of Cultivation C2. The Government should set up the ‘Price Compensation mechanism’ which will directly pay the farmers the gap between the Target Price (C2+50%) and the MSP (or the average Farm Harvest Price if lower than MSP).

  4. Government should set up a Price Stabilization Fund to address the market fluctuations in commercial crops

  5. Ecological Services bonus should be paid to farmers who practice ecological agriculture and cultivate eco-friendly crops like millets.

  1. A major mission should be taken up to identify and record tenant farmers, and to provide them access to crop loans, insurance, compensation for crop loss, and all government subsidies and programs. Tenant farmers form the most vulnerable section of the agrarian community and constitute a majority of farmer suicides. A separate project be initiated for this immediately.

  2. A concerted program to update land records should be taken up in a time-bound manner, especially with a view of implementing land reforms and ensuring that the benefits of government programs and compensation for land acquisition reach the real cultivators.

  3. Drastic increase in outlay for Disaster Relief Fund for farmers, which should provide timely compensation for crop loss due to any disaster such as floods, drought, cyclone and untimely rains – at Rs.10,000 per acre on the lines of recommendations of the Hooda committee.

  1. Adequate crop insurance should be provided for all crops in all regions. Furthermore, we demand that no premium should be demanded from farmers who are not a financial position to undertake this added burden. This is one of the major reasons why farmers are not able to avail of insurance schemes.

  2. A labour subsidy should be provided of 50 person-days/hectare for agricultural operations on private lands of farmers to compensate for the steep rise in labour wages. This should be in addition to the 100-day entitlement of labour work under NREGS and should be operationalized through a pilot program involving farmer and worker collectives.

  3.  A rural livelihoods program should be introduced that focuses on agro-based processing, storage and marketing facilities to be set up in rural areas, managed by farmer collectives.

  4. Adequate research finances be provided to the NARS, especially for taking up validation of ecological farming practices and approaches so that they do not become irrelevant or puppets in the hands of private corporations.

  5. A separate fund for families of farmer suicide should be immediately set up for providing relief and rehabilitation to all those families where a farmer had committed suicide and adequate support including addressing all the outstanding debt of such families be extended through the fund.

Signed by

                        Ch. Naresh Tikait ( President Bhartiya kisan Union)

                        Sh.Yudhvir Singh  (secretary bku)`
                        Sh.Gurnam Singh ( State President, BKU Haryana)
Ajmer Singh Lakhowal ( State President, BKU Punjab)

Ch. Rakesh Tikait ( Spoksman BKU )

S.S. Cheema  (BKU Uttrakhand)

Chukki Nanjundaswamy, (Karnataka Rajya Ryot Sangha Karnataka)

KS Puttanaiah (State President Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha,Karnataka)

Sh Vijay Jawandhia (Shetkari Sanghatna Maharashtra)

Sella Mutthu (President, Tamilanadu Farmers Association, Tamilanadu)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Memorandum: Indian Farmers Appeal to Block EU-India BTIA

New Delhi:  the BKU farmers along with traders and Positive People marched from Mandi House to Jantar Mantar against the proposed India EU FTA which was supposed to be signed at the EU India Summit held in Delhi. India EU FTA, which is technically called as Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) will have drastic impact on the livelihood of millions of small and marginal farmers, workers and it will seriously jeopardise access to affordable medicines across developing countries.

EU is demanding zero duty on 92% of its agricultural and industrial goods which would seriously impact Indian agriculture and MSEMs.

BKU submitted a memorandum (attached here) to the Prime Minister demanding to block the negotiations and put an end to the illogical trade liberalization in agriculture (whether through FTAs, WTO or through its own policies) that only serves to weaken our national capacity to ensure the wellbeing of our people and ecology.

I would request media to please give coverage to our concerns about the India EU FTA.
New Delhi, 10th February 2012
Shri Manmohan Singh ji
Hon'ble Prime Minister of India
New Delhi

Memorandum:    Indian Farmers Appeal to Block EU-India BTIA

Dear Sir,

We, the farmers of India, representing mainly the Bhartiya Kisan Union, rally here at the Parliament Street to demand that the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government must withhold their consent for the India – European Union (EU) Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) at the EU - India Summit happening today in New Delhi. If this summit endorses the BTIA today; it will be the black day in the history of Indian agriculture.

Under this trade agreement, EU is demanding that India must reduce import tariff to zero on 92 percent of tariff lines in agricultural and industrial goods. This will have seriously detrimental effect on India’s rural livelihoods, on agricultural production and consequently on our food security. It has been projected that the India-EU BTIA may lead to increased imports of dairy products, coffee, tea, cereals, fruits and vegetable, meat and poultry products and other value-added agriculture products. EU has an unfair export advantage in all of these products. The cheaper imports of dairy products from the EU's heavily subsidised and protected dairy sector could result in a significant dislocation of local producers of milk and dairy products in India and women farmers will be worse affected as dairy employ a large population of women. It will have serious and long-lasting impact as the bulk of our rural population is dependent on them for employment and livelihood. Indian farmers and farming are already under great distress due to the trade liberalization under the WTO regime and since 1995 when India signed WTO, more than 250,000 farmers have been reported to have committed suicides, making this the largest wave of suicides in the world. The drastic reduction of agricultural tariff under BTIA will flood the Indian market with heavily subsidized and ‘surplus’ agricultural produce from 27 European countries and it will lead to another spate of farmers’ suicide in the country.

Several reports and studies have confirmed that India’s gain in agricultural exports to EU will hardly increase under the BTIA, as compared to EU’s exports which is poised to gain substantially (CEPII-CIREM 2007). Since EU agricultural subsidies are off the trade negotiations under BTIA, they would continue to pose hurdles for Indian agricultural exports to EU. The strict food standards in EU (uneven across 27 EU member countries) pose another great challenge for our exports to EU. That’s why India gains much lower (83 million USD in agro processed food and 33 million USD in primary products) or negligible (USD 7, 2 and 1 million USD respectively in cereals, other crops and products of animal origin) amounts.  

We are also quite concerned about the EU demand for TRIPS-plus intellectual property (IP) rights in the form of India’s accession to UPOV 1991 in order to protect the interests of its agribusiness corporations engaged in crop research and development. UPOV-91 upholds rights of plant breeder’s, thus threatens the rights of farmers to use farm saved seed for next year sowing. EU demand for TRIPS plus provision in the form of data exclusivity for agri-chemicals pose a great threat for Indian farmers and it will lead to steep rise in prices of agri-chemicals. 

We are also greatly concerned about EU persistent demand for government procurement, which would greatly threaten food security of millions in India who are dependent on our public distribution system if India opens up procurement for EU companies who may not adhere to the government policy for minimum support price (MSP) to be given to farmers and the procured foodgrains may not land eventually in the FCI godowns.

The UPA government is in the middle of considering a food security bill, but on the other hand, it is willing to trade away our ability to produce food and our self-sufficiency in food production. The government of India cannot ensure that 1.2 billion people will be fed affordably by importing food. Importing food for our food security will be the end of India’s rich agricultural heritage not just because over 65% of the population makes its living through agriculture, but because self-sufficiency in food production is also fundamental to our national security. 

We note with great concern that in a democracy like ours no consultations have been carried out on BTIA and all the negotiations were behind closed doors without any parliamentary oversight, while our livelihoods, markets and biodiversity are being traded away. The very question of our livelihoods is under negotiation and yet no effort has been made to consult us. Such lack of transparency is unacceptable to us. We demand that agriculture and agricultural related activities must be kept out of any FTA negotiations India is engaging with. We demand that Quantitative Restrictions and import duties are brought back on all key agricultural commodities. Import duties should be at least 60% on all agricultural products.

The EU India BTIA is going to lead to a loss of agricultural livelihoods- the mainstay of Indian people. It will devastate the future of agriculture as we will lose our ability to diversify, to develop value added products and industries and services related to agriculture as European companies will take over our markets. EUs WTO plus IPR demands will end farmers fundamental rights to save and exchange seeds, and to the loss of farmers plant varieties and valuable traditional agricultural knowledge. India’s precious agro diversity developed over thousands of years is crucial to our food, ecology and existence. More and more MNC control of the food supply chain will affect the health and the food culture of India and consumers will lose choice in access to cheap and healthy food.

·         We appeal to you to withhold your consent and don’t sign the Bilateral Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) with European Union.
·         We also demand an immediate release of the negotiating texts of the proposed BTIA.
·         We want consultations/debates/public meetings with state officials and farmers of each state to discuss the EU India BTIA and other FTAs.
·         Most importantly, the Government of India must put an end to illogical trade liberalization in agriculture (whether through FTAs, WTO or through its own policies) that only serves to weaken our national capacity to ensure the wellbeing of our people and ecology.

We are therefore hope that you and the UPA government, under your leadership, would immediately take notice of our demands and take necessary actions.

Signed by:

Naresh Tikait, BKU U.P.
Yudhvir Singh, Spokesman, BKU (+91-9868146405).

Monday, February 13, 2012