Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
Rajasthan State Level Project Launch Meeting
Jaipur, April 14, 2005
The GRANITE project being implemented by CUTS (Consumer Unity & Trust Society) in eight Indian states is a two-year project (beginning from January 2005) aimed at capacity-building of civil society organisations (CSOs), media, grassroots groups, government officials, etc. to address complex issues of globalisation and the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and their relationship with economic development and governance in India.
CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS-CART), Jaipur- project partner for Rajasthan – to launch the project in Rajasthan – organised a daylong meeting on April 14th 2005 at Pink City Press Club, Jaipur. The meeting began with an inaugural session chaired by Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International and addressed by T. Srinivasan Srirangam, Principal Secretary, Department of Industries, Government of Rajasthan. This was followed by two panel discussions on the sectors of agriculture and textiles & clothing focusing on the ‘Opportunities & Challenges’ in both the sectors in the context of Rajasthan’s economy. The panelists were from media, CSOs and government departments. The meeting was attended by over hundred invitees including members of ‘State Reference Group’ that is an informal and interactive body at state level, members of Advisory Committee of CART, resource persons from the local media, representatives of CSOs, donor agencies, various departments of the state government, banking institutions, research institutions, grassroots groups, academicians and members of NCU (National Coordinating Unit) of the project & CART staff.
The objective of the meeting was to formally launch GRANITE project in Rajasthan. It also aimed at bringing all the relevant stakeholders to a common platform, to discuss the opportunities & challenges in the sectors of agriculture and textiles with reference to Rajasthan.
Key Addresses in the Inaugural Session
Pradeep S. Mehta, Secretary General, CUTS International
Laid emphasis on the Foreign Trade Policy (FTP) 2004-09 with its stress on greater export and employment opportunities. He also spoke on the increased role of states in export promotion and stated that the recently proposed Inter State Trade Council, in the annual supplement (2005) to the FTP, is an initiative in this direction. GRANITE project would further advocate for state involvement in export promotion. He also elaborated upon the background of WTO and GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) with special reference to India.
T. Srinivasan Srirangam, Principal Secretary, Dept. of Industries, Govt. of Rajasthan
- Highlighting the key characteristics of the state’s agrarian economy stated that the key issues of concern in agriculture sector are food security and livelihood issues. He also stated that policy formulation is now following a more participatory approach wherein experts are being consulted and are being asked to identify the potential employment areas prior to the actual policy formulation process. He also mentioned that the WTO cell in the state served as an interface between the government and the traders.
- Elaborating upon the basic characteristics of Rajasthan’s textiles sector said that the dismantling of the quota regime has opened a market of increased competitiveness and the system to be able to meet the changes at the global level should be vibrant enough.
Highlights of the panel discussion on Agriculture sector
Moderator: C. S. Barla, Consulting Economist, Jaipur
Panelists: A. K. Pachori, Agriculture Research Officer, Govt. of Rajasthan, Krishna Kumar, CECOEDECON, Jaipur and Sunny Sebastian, Special Correspondent, The Hindu.
- Stressed that the sector has to be competitive enough to be able to meet the challenges posed by the international market. However, the competitiveness of small & marginal farmers to face the challenges posed by the international market was debated upon.
- Certain issues that could be taken up as a part of GRANITE project were identified. These included – scarce water conditions, small & non-viable landholdings, crop diversification to water – intensive crops and lack of awareness amongst farmers as regards their rights. Educating farmers about organic farming, which is beginning to take place in Rajasthan, was also an issue of concern. Nearly 70 percent of the farmers are small and marginal and produced merely for self- sustenance. Thus, the relevance of contract farming for such farmers as well as for other farmers needed to be looked into.
- A divergent viewpoint presented by one of the panelists stated that in view of the scarce water conditions in the state farmers needed to curtail the agricultural production. Also, a strict monitoring of the cropping patterns was required. In this context agriculture extension was identified as a missing link in the agro-climatic zones in the state.
- The participants also laid emphasis on the agriculture policy to follow a participatory approach and thus take into consideration all the stakeholders.
Highlights of the panel discussion on textiles & clothing sector
Moderator: Prof. Kanta Ahuja, Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of Development Studies, Jaipur.
Panelists: L. C. Jain, Incharge, WTO Cell, Rajasthan Secretariat, Govt. of Rajasthan and Vimal Jain, Rajasthan Patrika, Jaipur.
- Discussed the impact of dismantling of the quota regime and the competitiveness of Indian textile industry to survive in the new competition regime. This new regime has posed opportunities as well as challenges before the industry. The biggest opportunity is that being a labour-intensive sector there would be a significant increase in the number of employment opportunities. However, the biggest challenge is the rise in the levels of competition and the competitiveness of our industry to face the situation. Herein concern was expressed for the Small Scale Industries (SSIs) that are not competitive enough to survive in the new regime and thus call for special assistance.
- The state’s strengths as well as factors in favour of the industry were identified. These included- decrease in the customs duty that has led to an increase in textile exports, greater availability of funds at reduced interest rates, country’s broad multi- fibre base, 10 percent subsidies given by the government on modern processing machines, etc.
- Similarly, certain areas of improvement were also pointed out. Some of these were- greater infrastructural support was required, captive power generation should be increased and electricity rates should be lowered. ‘Duty Entitlement Pass Book’ (DEPB) required rationalisation. Effective coordination between power loom, handloom and mills sectors was needed so as to ensure that one does not suffer at the cost of other sector(s) being promoted.