18th October 2011
Hon'ble Manmohan Singh ji
Prime Minister of India
We the Indian farmers are writing to you to bring your attention to the disastrous situation of the state of farming and rural India. The UPA government is promoting policies of runaway industrialization, privatization and urbanization directed at increased elite consumption at a time when we are facing a looming climate threat, and increasing hunger. Land needed to produce food is increasingly turning into elite housing complexes and shopping malls and other profitable ventures. While over 30 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) are being signed undemocratically with grave consequences for our rural producers. The rate of farmer suicides keeps on increasing every year and already between 1995 to 2010, about 2.5 lakh farmers have ended their lives due to the unjust policies. This is also a time when people all over the world are coming out on the streets and protesting the unfair anti peoples policies of liberalization from Wall Street in the US to all over Europe and increasingly now in Asia in over 1500 cities globally. We, the farmers of India, are in solidarity with these peoples movements against corporate greed and demand for a more pro-people, democratic and economically just policies. The farming sector of this country cannot be traded away or displaced any more - we demand strong state support for small scale agriculture and food production as well as decent social security in India's villages. It is with this thought that we place before you the following demands:
1. Provide minimum support price (MSP) and guaranteed procurement for all crops: The increasing cost of cultivation and ever rising food inflation are killing Indian farmers, because the rise in food retail prices are not translating into any benefit to the Indian farmers. It is mainly because the farm gate prices in India are far way below the retail prices, which is benefiting the food speculators and middlemen and not the farmers. We would therefore like to reiterate our long pending demand for bringing in Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all crops. The current mechanism of selectively supporting only rice, wheat and few other crops are not sufficient. Furthermore the MSPs offered are insufficient due to ever-increasing prices of diesel and other inputs. We demand government support and guaranteed procurement of all crops while the support prices should be declared before the sowing seasons so that farmers have time to plan and not suffer from the vagaries of the price market. MSPs should be scientifically calculated by taking into consideration all inputs like the ever increasing prices of diesel, the rent of the land, farmers wage as a skilled worker, farmer’s family labor besides the cost of inputs like seeds and fertilizers. For this season we demand an MSP of wheat of Rs 2250 per quintal, of paddy at Rs 2200 per quintal, of cotton at Rs 5000 per quintal, of sugarcane at Rs 350 per quintal, soyabeans at 3000 Rs per quintal and of potato at Rs 600 per quintal.
2. Support Turmeric farmers: Lastly, turmeric farmers have been suffering due to the high volatility of prices over the last year. Prices have crashed in the major turmeric producing areas and traders have started hoarding to wait and watch for better prices. We demand that special storage facilities be provided to farmers in the main turmeric producing states of Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh so that they may be able to store their produce instead of losing it due to an unfavorable market situation. We also demand that a minimum price be announced for turmeric so that farmers are not forced to distress sell at very low prices.
3. Provide fertilizer subsidy directly to farmers based on land holding: The ICCFM reiterate our long standing demand for providing fertilizer subsidy directly to the farmers based on his/ her land holding. This need to be given to only practicing farmers as per the state land holding limitation laws in order to check the benefit of this provision to companies and industries who at present own huge land. The constantly increasing prices of fertilizer are putting a huge pressure on farmers, this need to be checked by guaranteed subsidies.
4. We need a nodal ministry for agriculture: Since agriculture issues are governed by multiple ministries it is confusing for farmers and counterproductive to effective implementation of agriculture laws. We therefore demand that there should be a nodal ministry of the group of ministers under which all agriculture related decisions are made.
5. Comprehensive Agriculture Policy: We demand a comprehensive agriculture policy that supports small farmer agriculture to end farmer suicides and not industrial agriculture. Such a policy should end subsidies to industrial agriculture, ban GMOs, provide credit, procure agricultural produce, provide direct to consumer sale markets,support ecological farming among other things. This policy should be created with participation of farmers organizations as well as include farmers representatives in the implementation of the policy.
6. No to FTAs in agriculture, bring back quantitative restrictions (QRs) and import duties: The ICCFM farmers are quite upset with the UPA-2 agenda for trade liberalization through speeding up of the FTA negotiations to liberalize agricultural imports to India. We fear that the 30 odd FTAs which the government of India is negotiating with the highly industrial countries like EU, Israel, Australia, USA and others would provide market access to their agribusiness and their heavily subsidized agricultural commodities. This is highly detrimental to India's rural food producers and production. We are shocked that in a democracy like ours no consultations have been carried out of such FTAs and all the deals are being done behind closed doors without any parliamentary oversight, while our livelihoods, markets and biodiversity are being traded away. 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. Also we demand a ban on large scale dumping from China of silk which has already led to silk farmers committing suicides in Karnataka due to the crash in silk prices.
7. We want a separate budget for agriculture: India is an agricultural nation with the majority of its population [almost 60%] engaged in agriculture and related areas. We therefore demand that we urgently need a separate agriculture budget just as there is a separate railway budget.
8. Bring in price controls, stronger penalties in the Seeds Bill: The present draft of the seed bill 2011 is not in the interest of farmers. The main problem is that there is no provision of regulating seed prices in the present draft bill, so we see no point in legislating a seed bill like this when companies can decide at their whim to charge very high prices increasing the burden on farmers. At present, companies are charging prices at will and that too without any rationale. Tomato seed price for instance varies between Rs 475 to Rs 76,000 per kg, and Capsicum seed price between Rs 3,670 to Rs 65,200 a kg. Since some seeds are already being removed from the Essential Commodities Act, it is even more essential that the government have the power to fix prices. Furthermore the penalties on companies for selling substandard or spurious seeds – a major problem in the seed industry are mild and not going to act as deterrents. The current proposals of Rs 30000 as a fine for seeds not conforming to the standards are hardly going to force seed companies to change their behavior. Therefore we demand strong penalties like imprisonment for 10 years and a high fine of upto 25 lakhs for selling spurious seeds or if there is any crop failure and farmers suffer loss.
9. Ban the BRAI: We are totally opposed to the idea of an undemocratic institution like the Biotechnology Regulation Authority of India (BRAI) whose primary reason for being is to act as a clearing house for GMOs at a time when many nations are still debating this controversial technology; when India's public and farmers have already rejected this technology in the Bt brinjal consultations; and when many countries have actively banned GMOs. The BRAI is also not liable to provide information under the RTI and this non- transparent nature of the bill is unacceptable in a democratic country. Lastly, since GMOs are a question of agriculture, health and environment, those are the ministries that should be dealing with the issue of GMOs and not the Science and Technology Ministry whose main job is to promote GMOs in the name of technology. Promoters can simply not be regulators. We therefore demand scrapping of the BRAI bill.
10. We demand a diesel subsidy: The high prices of diesel are putting a major burden on the farming community. We need diesel at affordable rates so that farming and food production can continue and farmers don't have to bear high expenses in an already expensive venture. We demand that diesel prices should be reduced to 50% of the current rates.
11. MNREGA to be connected with agriculture in peak farming season and wages given to farmers: MNREGAs impact has been disastrous for farmers by creating a labor shortage during peak farming seasons. This is hitting the core of food production and also forcing small farmers to quit farming. While farmers [ large percentage of whom are also MNREGA laborers ] welcome higher wages and agree that Rs.100 per day is hardly commensurate with the revised and increased incomes of the 6th Pay Commission, we demand that MNREGA should not endanger farming but rather support it. We demand that MNREGA activities must continue to support peak farming seasons of crop harvesting and sowing. We also demand that farmers, since most of them are MNREGA workers themselves, should receive wages directly during peak farming seasons so that they can continue farming.
12. Reduce Interest rate to 4% for all Agricultural Loans: We would like to demand that the government, as per the recommendation of the Swaminathan Committee report of 2007, must fix a maximum interest rate of 4% on all agricultural loans. We also like to reiterate our demand for a complete debt relief not only from institutional debt but also of private money lenders. Moreover, it is a known fact that most of the agricultural loans meant for small and marginal farmers are being diverted to big agri-corporations. We therefore demand that instead of providing credit facility to agribusiness, the UPA government bring policy to provide agricultural credit to small and marginal farmers at the nominal rate of interest.
13. We demand separate policy for dry land farming: Since there is a major difference between irrigated farming and dry land farming, and since most of India's farmers are dry land farmers we demand that a separate policy be created for dry land farming.
14. No to land acquisition for private purposes- we demand new Land Acquisition Act to support real public purposes and people's development: We do not agree with the rationale behind the proposed land acquisition act, which promotes urbanization as an inevitable phenomenon. It is clear to us that this is a politically created idea so that corporations can hoard lands at cheap prices and continue their highly profitable activities in the guise of public purpose. In a time of the climate crisis, the Indian government should not be blindly following the path of large scale urbanization and industrialization directed at elite consumption. We should instead focus on preserving agriculture land to secure food sovereignty. We are not against giving our lands for genuinely public purposes to be established after a national debate. We also demand that in the cases where lands are given a compensation amount of 6 times the market value is provided to land losers. Also acquisitions for NHAI and Railways should be brought under the Land acquisition act and not be governed under separate procedures to ensure fair compensation and rehabilitation to land losers.
15. Crop Insurance to Compensate Farmers in case of Natural Calamity or crop damage due to wild animals: We would like to draw your kind attention on the anomaly in the current Crop Insurance Scheme where a block or tehsil (not even a village) is considered as a unit and unless a natural calamity hit the whole block or tehsil, farmers are not compensated. We therefore demand that under the Crop Insurance Scheme, each farmer and his/ her crop should be considered as a unit. In case of natural calamity like drought, floods, fire, hailstorm or frost which destroys standing crop of a farmer or groups of farmers, they must get compensation. The UPA government must also institute a policy for an Emergency Fund to compensate farmers (who don’t have crop insurance) in case of a natural calamity like drought, floods, fire, hailstorm or frost. Also in the case there is damage by wild animals which is a frequent issue, then all losses should be 100% compensated by the government and in case of the death of a farmer in such a case their farmer should get 5 lakh compensation.
16. Medical Facilities and Insurance: In a time of increasing liberalization and inflation, farmers are not able to cope up with the cost of living at the low income they receive. With the increasing privatization of medical services in India, getting access to medical services is increasingly difficult or impossible for many food producers. We demand that medical facilities through a government aided health scheme and health insurance are provided to farmers families for free just as they are to other government servants.
17. Education facilities in rural areas: Farmers children need quality education services at par with the cities. We demand that proper schools and educational facilities are run by the government in rural areas as well a provision be made to provide free and highly subsidized education. Education is the right of the people of this country and it should be the governments primary duty to make all efforts to deliver this.
18. Ban private seed company research in public agricultural universities: We are opposed to Public Funded Intellectual Property bill which allows private companies to carry out their research in public agricultural universities. These universities should instead promote participatory pro farmer agroecological research based on traditional farming methods along with provision of a separate budget for this.
Ajmer Singh Lakhowal, State President, BKU Punjab,
Gurnam Singh, State President, BKU Haryana,
S.S. Cheema, BKU Uttrakhand,
Chukki Nanjundaswamy, Karnataka Rajya Ryot Sangha, Karnataka
Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha,Karnataka
Sh Vijay Jawandhia
S Kannaiyan, South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements
President, Tamilanadu Farmers Association, Tamilanadu
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