Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)

Karnataka First Outreach Meeting
Shimoga, Karnataka, August 10, 2005

The first outreach meeting under GRANITE project was held at Shimoga, Karnataka, on August 10, 2005. The meeting was coordinated by three local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) i.e. Consumer Awareness Forum, Spandana (a women’s group) and Agricultural Technology and Rural Development Organisation.

The objective of the meeting was to ascertain the views of the farmers and the grassroot farm workers about the impact of globalisation and WTO on their livelihoods.

The meeting started with a brief introduction about GRANITE project and the objectives of the outreach meeting. Mohamad Anwar of Consumer Rights, Education and Awareness Trust (CREAT) described the background of GRANITE and its future activities, and explained the activities of CUTS International and CREAT in this direction. Before the floor was opened for discussion, presentations were made by farmers, leaders, farm workers and government officials.

K T Gangadhar, General Secretary of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (Farmers Association) informed the benefits and dangers of the WTO Agreement on Agriculture (AoA). B H Manjappa, Joint Director (Horticulture) and Shakeel Ahmed, Deputy Director (Horticulture), Karnataka State, made presentations about WTO and its impact on agriculture in Shimoga district.

Following are some of the opinions expressed by the participants:

  • There is no point in asking the Government to come out of WTO. This is neither possible nor feasible.
  • The concept of Red, Blue and Green Box in the WTO is to be understood in proper perspective. These concepts are to be explained to the farmers and the general public so that preventive steps can be taken to avoid any difficulties.
  • It is commonly believed that WTO is a demon. But it is not so. Farmers and growers have to understand the WTO on a scientific basis. With proper understanding of WTO, its adverse implications can be warded off.
  • The people’s representatives are themselves not aware of the WTO and its implications. Instead of studying it seriously and educating the farmers, they are fooling the public in the name of WTO.
  • The Government has to take steps to carry accurate information about WTO to the doorsteps of the farmers and women agriculture workers.
  • There is a need for an information revolution about globalisation, WTO and various agreements entered into by the Government.
  • Though globalisation has benefited a few urban women it has had a devastating effect on the rural people. Globalisation has made the life of the poor, particularly women miserable. It has not only affected their economic status but also their life style, health and way of living.
  • Most of the farmers have stopped growing food crops. Instead, there is a apparent shift towards commercial crops and floriculture. There was a time when food crops like paddy, jowar, ragi and pulses were found in abundance. But now, these crops are becoming rarity. As a result, women are denied of nutritious food, which is leading to malnutrition.
  • The Government should not allow any type of seeds into the country unless it is tested for safety and efficacy. Before permitting their sale in the market, the Government institutions devoted to agriculture should take up research and testing of seeds and fertilizers.
  • Commercial crops and food crops should be given equal treatment and all facilities should be extended equally.
  • The adverse effects of biotechnology and genetically modified seeds should be studied carefully before their use is permitted.
  • The proposed Seed Bill 2004 should not be made into an Act in the present form. A wider discussion should be held, particularly in rural areas.