July 17, 2008

Indian farmers protest about proposed WTO agreement

I wrote recently about the need for UN bodies, international organisations and governments in their foreign policy to consider their human rights obligations. In the article I addressed the right to food in particular. See:

The following news item from campaigners in India has arrived in my email in box showing how people there are concerned about the impact of World Trade Organisation on their food security.

--Message from Devinder Sharma who organised the meeting described

Points from the Press Note:

Farmers and rural women of Karnataka, in solidarity with various farmers organizations of India, resolve that the latest drafts on Agriculture and Non Agricultural Market Access (NAMA) that were released on the 10th of July, 2008 in Geneva, are an orchestrated attempt to open up the Indian markets for highly subsidized cheaper imports. Importing food is importing unemployment and poverty that will destroy livelihoods and the country's food self-sufficiency.

What is being offered to us at WTO by way of special products (SP) and Special Safeguard Measures (SSM) is only a smokescreen and offers no real protection to Indian agriculture and fisheries.

The Agreement on Agriculture is designed to ensure that subsidized products from the developed countries are dumped into India. In the absence of quantitative restrictions since 2001, farmers across the country have been exposed to price volatility, decreased incomes and, in many cases, driven to commit suicide. This is a calculated move to push farmers out of farming and replaced by corporations as has been the approach in the USA and European Union.

In this context and given the above concerns, we demand that the Government should reject the two drafts, as they fail to take India's minimum concerns on-board.

Agriculture and Food should be left out of WTO.

We urge political parties, civil society organizations, academics, etc. to stand up and join hands with us to resist this anti-farmer agreement. We also request our state governments to take up this matter with the Centre on an urgent basis so that the interest of farmers and nation is protected.

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