The massive insurrection against the Modi Government and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) coalition on March 18, 2015 by the major agricultural unions of India has led to a widespread launch of lobbying regarding farmer’s rights and farmer cost of living allocations in the capital city.
According to the All India Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement (AICCFM), Modi and the NDA came to power by way of funding from the GMO lobby. The latter represents the patent holders of genetically modified seed inputs which are now promoted by programs focused on agribusiness in many emerging and developing market countries.
Unfair property regulations, GM practices problematic for Indian farmers
Arguing that a lack of transparency about political campaign funding, and that standing anti-farmer policies reflect corruption at all levels of agricultural governance, the AICCFM is requesting amendment of the Land Acquisition Ordinance that ultimately protects their property rights. They’re also requesting the revision of commercial-growing guidelines which now include mandated adherence to patent rules assigning apportioned proprietary ownership of GM crops, including percentages of sales owed to the genetic patent registrar.
While the lack of fair and remunerative pricing for farm produce is not a new demand by the AICCFM, the request for restructuring fair trade agreements (FTAs) in the interest of establishing a farm income commission is. Elimination of agriculture from the World Trade Organization (WTO) free trade agreement, indemnity for farm disaster relief and open air field trials of GM crops are cited as other issues that the farm unions wish to change.
Farmer suicides demonstrate severity of economic instability, food security issues
Drastically-reduced subsidies to farmers since May 2014 has led to more than 7,000 farmer suicides in the country. Sacrifice of farmer economic stability is a serious threat to the security of the nation’s food supply; sadly, it’s troublesome enough for people to take their own lives.
Government mismanagement of the agrarian crisis, including lowered budgetary allocations to Indian farmers, underscores the justification for the protest. Protesting farmers expressed suspicion that the government does not plan to stand by their commitment to agriculturalists, nor food security. The elimination of subsidies and market constraints on agricultural product pricing are believed to put India’s agribusinesses — and the farmers themselves — at increased risk.
Concerns over procurement and subsidy reform
The government plan to dismantle the national procurement system and restructure minimum support pricing (MSP) to farmers has been a concern. As such, farmers are demanding that the MSP must be 50 percent above the cost of production at a minimum.
Additionally, concerns over the strength of the procurement systems across the country has also been voiced. The main objective, they maintain, should be a win-win national food security solution.
The AICCFM representatives also suggest that a Farm Income Commission be set up to guarantee a standard of living income to farm households. This would include fair pricing decisions, loss compensation (due to natural disasters as well as attacks on crops by wild animals) and the elimination of unsafe GMO practices. All of this would ultimately boost the farmer’s livelihood.
Both the Indian government and the protestors agree that legislative reform must cover a range of issues, not exclusively limited to MSP or procurement rules and allocations, but also international fair trade pricing practices and related farmer subsidies.
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