Economic liberalisation, globalisation create hardship for farmers: study

The Financial Express, July 07, 2008
By Ashok B Sharma

Economic liberalisation impacted by globalisation and the WTO has damaged the system of subsidies, price guarantees and food-aid that much of the population depended upon for their livelihood according to a study conducted by CUTS Centre for International Trade, Economics and Environment (CITEE).

CUTS and CITEE, which conducted a study on globalisation and livelihood concerns in Rajasthan and West Bengal, particularly in relation to agriculture and textiles and clothing sectors noted that the economic growth promise of globalisation was not released. “Caught in a new situation about which they are not even aware, people do not know how to navigate their way around and whom to negotiate with to secure their livelihoods. It is therefore important to redesign the policies and institutions to address the genuine concerns of the people in a new reality,” it said.

It called for active state intervention for unlocking the benefits of globalisation. Adequate steps should also be taken to facilitate modernisation and development of better infrastructure, quality control, R&D, training and skill generation, innovation and marketing strategies, it said.

“The condition of the workers, in terms of basic labour standards like regularity of jobs, right to strike, minimum wages is being undermined. Therefore, enforcement of labour laws should be made effective,” said the CUTS-CITEE field survey, supported by the Royal Norwegian Embassy in India and Oxfam Novib-the Netherlands.

It also noted that women’s participation in the decision-making was abysmally low and wherever present was usually for namesake only. The study criticised poor implementation of the Foreign Trade Policy at the grassroots level.

Liberalisation of the farm sector has caused significant changes in agricultural patterns across various districts of West Bengal and the factor primarily responsible was the competition not only from neighbouring countries but also from other regions of the country. In the Uttara Dinajpur district imported paddy resulted in lower prices for even high quality local paddy such as Tulaipanji. Farmers shifted to plantation of tea. Similarly in North, 24-paraganas district high quality paddy brought from outside West Bengal at cheaper prices affected the paddy cultivation in the district and farmers began switching over to mango plantation.

“Even in sectors such as tea and oranges in Darjeeling is getting affected due to competition from Sri Lanka and China as also from elsewhere in the country. Packaging and marketing of tea have greatly improved in South India and Assam and is posing a great challenge. The state support provided to horticulture in Maharashtra has caused an influx of oranges into West Bengal, causing widespread impact on the livelihood of many farmers,” the study documented.

Similar changes in farming patterns are noticed in Rajasthan. Many farmers are now concentrating on cash crops such as soybean, groundnut, mustard, fruit and vegetables. In Dausa district, traditional crops like jowar and bajra are being replaced by gwar mustard and groundnut. In Bikaner district farmers are switching over to groundnut, mustard and gram. In Shahbad tehsil farmers are switching over to soybean from wheat, maize and jowar which they had been cultivating for over 10 years.

The textiles and clothing sector in both West Bengal and Rajasthan has suffered on account of liberalisation and globalisation.

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