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Kisan union wants agriculture out of WTO purview

By Our Staff Correspondent



The chief of the Bharat Kisan Union, Mahendra Singh Tikait (right), addressing a press conference in Mysore on Tuesday. M. Yudhveer Singh (left), convener of the national coordinating committee, and Sesha Reddy, working president of the Karnataka Raj ya Raitha Sangha, are seen. — Photo: M.A. Sriram

MYSORE, FEB. 15. The Bharatiya Kisan Union has warned of socio-economic upheavals in the country if India does not bargain to keep agriculture out of the purview of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

Addressing a press conference here today, the chief of the union, Mahendra Singh Tikait, and its national coordinating committee convener, M. Yudhveer Singh, warned of the impending dangers if India goes ahead and agrees to the stipulations of the WTO in the next round of meeting scheduled to be held in Hong Kong in November.

The leaders said a farmers' rally will be taken out in New Delhi on March 17 to pressure the Government to keep agriculture out of the purview of the WTO. More than five lakh farmers from all over India are expected to attend the rally. Subsequently, the agitation will be intensified across the country.

Apprised

Mr. Yudhveer Singh said the Government has been apprised of the stand of the union on the issue and a memorandum has been submitted in this regard. The union has also demanded that an Indian Farmers Act be formulated on the lines of the Labour Act to provide for minimum wages to farmers, he added.

Expressing concern over the "signals" emerging from the Government on the issue, the leaders said there seems to be a preference to abolish import duty on agriculture produce and open the market for foreign countries, which, they said, are in line with the prevailing economic policies of the Government.

Mr. Yudhveer Singh warned that the move is fraught with danger as India will be reduced to a dumping ground for agriculture produce by the developed world.

This will ruin Indian farmers, who are already under duress from the new economic policies being followed by the Government, he said.

The leaders said the Government seems to be in favour of removing subsidies on fertilizers and abolishing minimum support price for agriculture produce. "India has imposed 65 per cent import duty on agriculture produce in the past and this has been gradually reduced to 35 per cent.

But now, talks are on to abolish import duty and open the country's agriculture market without securing similar benefits for Indian farmers," they added.

Taking umbrage at the developed world for forcing India to sign the WTO declaration, the union leaders pointed out that the U.S. provides subsidy to the tune of 67 per cent to American farmers to protect them from competition.

"A section of the intelligentsia in India argues that opening up the market and abolishing import duty on agriculture produce will facilitate Indian farmers to export their produce and compete at the global level. But the Indian farmer is not being provided a level-playing field, and exports to the U.S. will not find any buyers owing to restrictions while the European countries would have slapped a 3 per cent import duty on agriculture produce," Mr. Yudhveer Singh said.

Unemployment

He noted that this is a tough time for farmers. There has been an increase in the unemployment rate and lakhs of workers have lost their jobs as small-scale industries are facing closure owing to mounting losses.

Commenting on the move to rope in India and Brazil to G-8, the union leaders said this is an attempt to break the solidarity of the third world and developing nations that look upon India and Brazil for leadership. India ranks 127 on the Human Development Index and yet they want to include it in the G-8 countries, they said.

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