New Delhi, March 18th 2015: Major farmer unions of India affiliated with the All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM) have launched a massive agitation against NDA’s anti-farmer policies, and to seek a resolution to several burning issues pertaining to farm livelihoods, on March 18th 2015 through a Kisan Maha Panchayat in the heart of India’s capital. Thousands of farmers have resolved to stay put on Parliament Street in India's capital until the government engages them in a dialogue to resolve various burning issues. Anti-farmer measures through the Land Acquisition Ordinance, recent report of Shanta Kumar High Level Committee on restructuring FCI, the mindless push by the government of GM crops, lack of fair and remunerative prices for farm produce, demand for a farm income commission, removing agriculture from free trade agreements including WTO, adequate disaster relief for farmers etc., are issues on the agenda of these farm unions. The acute farm distress in India, marked by unabated farm suicides was flagged as a matter that needs urgent addressal. It is reported that during the NDA Government since May 2014, more than 7000 farmers have committed suicide. The government, instead of increasing Budget allocation to deal with the agrarian crisis, has drastically reduced agriculture budget drastically from around 31 thousand crore in 2014-15 to around 25 thousand crores in 2015-16. In fact, the budget outlays for Dept of Agriculture and Cooperation as well as for animal husbandry and fisheries are down to the levels of budgetary allocations five years ago!
To protest against various anti-farmer policies, and to secure some long pending demands that will guarantee minimum living incomes to all farm households, thousands of farmers from all over India have congregated at the Kisan Maha Panchayat on Parliament Street in the heart of the capital today (March 18th 2015).
All the unions threatened to step up their agitation if the Ordinance-routed dilutions to the Land Acquisition Act of 2013 were not rolled back by the government. “In the current debate unfolding in the Parliament, we are watching out for those political parties which are ready to sacrifice farmers’ interests as well as the food security interests of the country, in their mindless support for the industry. We would like to warn them that they will have to face increased opposition from citizens who are fighting for their basic right to livelihood. Even a preliminary prima facie analysis shows that at least 50% of the tens of lakhs of hectares that have been acquired in the name of land banks, industrial corridors, freight corridors, highways, airports and so on have remained unallotted or unutilized for the stated purpose – given that the average Indian farm household has just around one hectare of landholding, this means dispossession of lakhs of farmers straightaway, and this is totally unacceptable. In such a scenario, protecting farmers’ interests without diluting consent and comprehensive impact assessment clauses in law becomes critical”.
Shri Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, President, BKU Punjab said that various moves by the government in the past few months belie the BJP promises before elections that emphasized on increase in farmers’ income with an acknowledgement that agriculture is the largest employer in India. “Whether it is the reported plans to dismantle the current procurement system in the country in the name of a High Level Committee report for restructuring FCI or the lack of any moves to announce MSPs that give a margin of at least 50% over cost of cultivation, it is apparent that this government is not committed to reviving agriculture or securing sustainable dignified incomes to farm households. We demand that the MSP should be at least 50% over cost of production, and that procurement systems in the country be strengthened further and not weakened in any way. We need a system which will create a win-win for food security of consumers and livelihood security of farmers”, he said.
Speaking to media persons, Shri Rakesh Tikait, National Spokesperson, Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) demanded that the Government should set up a Farm Income Commission to guarantee minimum living incomes to all farm households. While such living incomes can be ensured through adequate, fair and remunerative price decisions coupled with procurement and other market intervention mechanisms, there is also a need to compensate for losses due to various natural calamities including wild animal attacks on crops. He also demanded that all arrears due to sugarcane farmers should be paid immediately and the same recovered later from the sugar industry.
“The government is exhibiting its pro-industry stance by pushing for unneeded, unwanted and unsafe GMOs in our farming. We want all open air field trials of GM crops stopped immediately in the country since such open air trials pose not only a risk of contamination but also risk of trade rejection. Further, any moves towards trade liberalization in agriculture whether through the WTO route or through free trade agreements are unacceptable to us. FTAs such as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and EU India FTA will lead to slashing of agricultural tariff and allowing import of cheap subsidised foods which would further depress farmgate prices and drastically impact farmers’ livelihood. The issues with Agreement on Agriculture are not limited to just MSP and procurement but the fact that we are getting priced out due to unfair and cleverly-camouflaged subsidies elsewhere. This is now a well-understood issue and the government has to ensure that AoA is removed from the WTO and that all FTAs being negotiated by the government should immediately drop any agriculture-related clauses”, said Shri Yudhvir Singh, Convenor of the All India Coordination Committee of Indian Farmers Movements.
It is important to note that these farmer unions are not affiliated with any political party and farmers affiliated with these unions have come from far and wide, spending their own resources, to get their voice heard with the government and to assert their rights.
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TEXT OF THE MEMORANDUM ADDRESSED TO THE PRIME MINISTER PASTED BELOW:
18th March 2015
Shri Narendra Modi,
Prime Minister of India
7, Race Course Road
New Delhi - 110011.
Subject: Memorandum seeking resolution to various issues of concern for farmers of the country and for withdrawing recent anti-farmer policies and measures – reg.
We, farmer leaders associated with All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM), are very disappointed with the NDA government policy reforms on agriculture which are unfortunately not directed for the benefit of millions of small and marginal farmers but are mainly to benefit a handful of corporates to augment their profit. We were quite hopeful that under your leadership, we would see a big support for agriculture sector and a concrete plan to deal with the on-going agrarian crisis. But in 300 days of your leadership, we have not seen any tangible gains. Agrarian crisis has become more acute and farmers’ suicides are continuing unabated. We fear that the pro-corporate agricultural policy reforms in this NDA rule will further worsen our situation.
Today, more than 50 thousand farmers assembled at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi and held a Kisan Maha Panchayat to protest against your government’s anti-farmer policies on agriculture. The objectionable Land Acquisition Ordinance which is bound to worsen farm livelihoods, recent report of Shanta Kumar High Level Committee on restructuring FCI, the mindless push by the government of GM crops, lack of fair and remunerative prices for farm produce, and our long-pending demand for a farm income commission etc., were the key issues which was raised by the farmers leaders at Jantar Mantar. In this age of diminishing farm returns and increasing inflation, where official data points to incomes from cultivation in agricultural households being far lower than statutory minimum wages for unskilled work, farmers are agitating to secure a long pending demand for income support that will guarantee minimum living incomes to all farm households.
Through this memorandum, members of the AICCFM would like to seek resolution of some burning issues, failing which we will be forced to launch a massive agitation against NDA’s anti-farmer policies. These include:
1. The Land Acquisition Ordinance: The Ordinance and the Bill in Lok Sabha completely reverses any pro-farmer provisions of the 2013 Act, which were brought about after decades of struggle by farmers and project displaced people. The changes being brought in by your government puts the Act back to the 1894 level. It is apparent that the key objective of amending the LARR Act 2013 is to get rid of all social safeguards that protected farmers against forcible and unjustifiable land acquisition in the name of public purpose or PPPs. We object your government’s move to remove these safeguards especially, the mandatory approval of at least 70% and 80% of affected people for acquiring land for PPP projects and for private companies respectively; the provisions for ‘No land without consent of people’; ‘the scrutiny of public purpose’; mechanism of Social Impact Assessment with public participation in Social Impact Assessment; and No to multi-cropped land. At another level, it is seen that the government is also diluting other laws so that resource-grabbing by corporations is made easier.
The NDA government is ready to facilitate large-scale land acquisition and land grabbing for several so-called development projects, including for private sector, which will have serious impact on the livelihood security of the farmers and food security of our sovereign nation. Lakhs of hectares of land have already been acquired in the name of various development projects including freight corridors, industrial corridors, land banks, highways and so on. Some estimates put this in tens of thousands of square kilometres of land or lakhs of hectares of land. It is also reported that much of the land acquired is unallotted and under-/un-utilised by the acquirer, especially against the purpose for which it has been acquired. While there is a need for a White Paper to be issued by the government on the exact status of acquisition, compensation, utilisation put of that land for the initial-stated reason, resettlement and rehabilitation of displaced etc., it has to be remembered that in a country where the average landholding is just around one hectare of land for a majority of landholders, this magnitude of land acquisition is a direct denial of livelihood rights of lakhs of Indians.
The AICCFM farmers demand an immediate withdrawal of the Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Bill (Amendment) Bill 2015 even though it has been cleared by the Lok Sabha early this month and the same should not be tabled in Rajya Sabha at all. We urge the government to listen to the mood of the nation on the subject. The overwhelming demand is that the Ordinance should be scrapped. In fact, any deficiencies in the 2013 Act should be addressed rather than weaken the legislation against farmers’ interests.
2. Provide Remunerative Price for Farmers Produce and Implement C2+50: Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP), in its manifesto (2014) announced that it will ensure that agriculture becomes profitable. The party and its leaders had promised to implement Swaminathan Commission Report’s (2005) recommendation to provide MSP based on Cost of production (C2) plus 50% as profit margin. However, even after forming the central government, NDA has made no attempt to implement this promise; further, the MSP announcements have been extremely disappointing. We demand from the BJP government that it fulfil its commitment as announced in its manifesto and provide remunerative price for farmers produce, at C2+50%.
3. Shanta Kumar High Level Committee Report and Recommendation on Restructuring FCI: Farmers’ organisations all over the country are quite outraged at the Anti-Farmer and Anti-Food-Security recommendations of the High Level Committee (HCL) on Restructuring of Food Corporation of India (FCI). The recommendations are essentially a U-turn on BJP promises made in the manifesto which favoured universal food security. The HLC report recommends that FCI step out of procurement operations in addition to asking for dilution of the National Food Security Act (NFSA) to reduce its coverage from present 67% to 40% which would be disastrous not only for the livelihood of millions of farmers but will affect food security of the millions of India’s landless, poor and destitutes. And in order to finish the MSP system, this committee recommended bringing in the cash transfer in the food security programme. We demand that the government announce that these recommendations are not acceptable to it and therefore, will not be taken on board.
4. Write off all farm loans: The latest NSSO findings on agricultural households shows the levels of indebtedness of agricultural households. Today, the unabated phenomenon of farmers’ suicide indicates that Indian farmers are reeling under such loan burden from institutional sources and private moneylenders. Farmers’ leaders demand that the NDA government must write off all institutional loans of farmers. Government must also instruct public banks and cooperatives banks to give fresh loans to farmers at 0% interest.
5. Institute Government Policy to compensate loss due to Natural Calamity: Farmers’ leaders demand that the NDA government bring in a Union Policy to compensate farmers for the crop loss due to natural calamity. There should be a clear-cut provision for irrigated and non-irrigated farmers for compensation. The Government must also institute an Emergency Fund to provide compensation to farmers on an urgent basis in case of crop loss due to natural calamities, like floods, heavy rains and drought as well as wild animal attacks.
Certain parts of India, especially Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir have witnessed heavy rain and hail storm in last one week (in March 2015) which destroyed standing crops of wheat, mustard, cotton and horticulture crops like apples. We demand from your government a grant Rs. 30,000 per acre for food crops, Rs. 50,000 for cash crops and to bring in proper measures to compensate horticulture farmers as soon as possible for their loss.
6. Trade Liberalization in Agriculture: We urge the NDA government not to allow any trade liberalization in agricultural goods through WTO or FTAs. Given the unabated and disguised subsidies given elsewhere to agricultural produce, Indian farmers end up making huge losses, when such subsidised produce gets imported. Farmers unions demand from Indian government to move a proposal in the WTO to remove Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) from WTO. Farmers also demand that agriculture-related provisions from all FTAs negotiated by the Indian government must be dropped.
7. Institute Farmers’ Pay Commission: Farmers demand from the NDA government to institute a Farmers Income Commission whose mandate will be to ensure minimum living incomes in a guaranteed fashion to all farm households. Through this commission, government must ensure income to farmers which is equal to the salary of a 4th Grade government employees to help them live a dignified life.
8. NO to GMOs: Farmers unions would like to remind the NDA government to stay true to their earlier stand of utmost precaution with regard to GMOs, which their state governments are still reflecting at this point of time. GMOs are unneeded, unwanted and unsafe in our food and farming systems and we demand that the government do not allow any open air field trials of GMOs, further commercialisation or import of any Genetically Engineered seeds or crops or trees.
9. Pay Arrears to Sugarcane Farmers: Sugarcane farmers have not received their arrears for the last two years. We demand that instead of forcing sugar industries to pay to farmers, the government instead pay all arrears due to sugarcane farmers immediately and collect the same from the industry.
We would like to have your intervention on these issues of major concern for farmers and we hope that you would soon take appropriate measures to address our concerns in a substantive and solid fashion.
Ch. Naresh Tikait,
Ratan Singh Mann
Ajmer Singh Lakhowal,
Satnam Singh Cheema,
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka
BKU, Madhya Pradesh
KS Puttanaiah (MLA),
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka
K. Sella Mutthu,
President, Tamil Nadu Farmers Association, Tamil Nadu
Uzhavar Ulaippalar Katchi,
Tamil Nadu Farmers Association
S S Gill,
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Karnataka
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