Jaipur, Rajasthan, December 21, 2005
CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS-CART), an active partner under the GRANITE project for Rajasthan, organised a day-long State-level Workshop at Patel Bhavan, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, on December 21, 2005. The workshop was attended by over 100 participants from varied backgrounds i.e. state government departments, media, non-government organisations (NGOs), academia, research institutions, farmers, weavers, artisans, etc.
The objective of the state-level workshop was to ensure wider outreach, networking and greater orientation on issues related to agriculture, textile, handicrafts and handlooms in the purview of World Trade Organisation (WTO) and globalisation, so that the right information and knowledge about these issues could reach in the right perspective to the public at large, and thus, can have larger implications on their lives.
Session I: Inaugural
R K Sharma, CUTS International, Jaipur, inaugurated the workshop and briefed the objectives of the GRANITE project. He urged the state government to expedite the process of framing the ‘Agriculture Policy of Rajasthan State’ under the purview of WTO and globalisation and called upon to intensify the efforts to undertake capacity building of all relevant stakeholders through information dissemination, training and discussions.
Prabhu Lal Saini, Minister of Agriculture & Animal Husbandry, Government of Rajasthan, praised CUTS for providing a platform to discuss the issues concerning WTO and globalisation with special focus on agriculture and textiles (including handloom and handicrafts) and lauded India’s efforts at the recently concluded WTO Hong Kong Ministerial in convincing the developed countries to eliminate export subsidies by the year 2013.
Citing the contribution of agriculture sector of Rajasthan to the nation’s economy, he lamented the lack of marketing channels and infrastructural facilities and asked for a revolutionary step in these areas. He informed the state government’s initiatives in the areas of crop diversification, organic farming and contract farming, and stressed the need for farmer’s involvement in making agreements, policies and programmes at the national or international levels, including participatory approach and NGOs’ involvement while finalising state agricultural policy.
Even though the special mandis (markets) were set up in different districts of Rajasthan, the farmers are not getting the benefit from them, he added. In the end, he stressed the need for integrated role of all stakeholders – NGOs, media, state government officials, academia and research institutions – in information dissemination and awareness generation.
Globalisation & WTO: A Brief Overview at National and State-level
Dr Arbind Sinha, Faculty of Management, Yagayavalkya Institute of Technology, Jaipur, highlighted five key issues under globalisation – collaboration, integration, competitiveness, quick decision and resourcefulness and stated that the policy frame should always talk of mutual benefits while WTO, contrarily, has always talked of individual benefits. He touched upon two vital issues concerning agriculture subsidies that were raised during the Sixth WTO Hong Kong Ministerial:
- the developed nations accepted their inability to go on increasing export subsidies asking developing nations to decrease export subsidies; and
- the developed countries should eliminate export subsidies completely by 2013. He emphasised three issues in the agriculture sector – irrigation and water, seeds, and marketing – which have a lot of scope for improvement.
Economic development was considered to be the outcome of high gross domestic product (GDP), low gap between the rich and the poor and full employment. The agriculture and handicrafts sectors assume greater importance, as a large section of the population depends on them.
He pointed out the cropping pattern, which needs to match the infrastructural, irrigational and marketing facilities available, and crops with a longer shelf life should be grown in case, there exists a dearth of these facilities.
Regarding handloom and handicrafts sectors, he asked for degree of mechanism for increased production and branding of produce as an effort in the direction of protecting the weavers and artisans.
He identified training for life and behavioural skills improvement as an area to be targeted for workers, weavers, etc.
Prof. C S Barla, Consulting Economist, Jaipur, asked the need for undertaking a market survey to assess the demand of products and its cost effectiveness before framing any policy. He discussed the close linkage between agricultural and environmental problems, including any natural calamity for which an effective mechanism must be devised that could inform the producers beforehand, so that they could protect their crops.
Promoting Agriculture Sector: Role of Government & Civil Society
Khemraj Choudhary, Commissioner and Secretary, Panchayati Raj Department, Government of Rajasthan, informed the cropping pattern that the farmers choose is often governed by the price they get for their produce. Thus, it is important that they are ensured of the right return for their produce. The trust between the government and the farmers can be built through initiative from the various stakeholders to create work synergy by upgrading the system with a long-term objective, and farmers’ involvement in policy-making efforts from the government.
He also informed the high value loss in post harvest technique, which needs to be minimised in favour of the producers as well as consumers, including focus on value addition and unbiased weighing system that must ensure genuine aggregation of produce. The Self-Help Groups (SHGs) and NGOs can take the onus for ensuring the farmers a justified return for their produce.
- A plan for supplementary jobs for farmers to make them more capable and self-empowered. Also, ensuring agricultural insurance scheme for the crops that are not covered under Minimum Support Price (MSP).
- A policy to retain the nutritional content and taste of the fruits and vegetables, which are lost due to excessive use of pesticides and long gap between production and consumption.
- A need for promoting agriculture sector, whose share in GDP has been declining in comparison to other sectors is increasing, for which the role of government and NGOs is vital.
Contemporary Policies: Agriculture
L C Jain, Incharge, WTO Cell, Industries Department, Government of Rajasthan, outlined three basic issues in the context of WTO – market access, domestic support and exports subsidies and explained the outcome reached at the Sixth WTO Hong Kong Ministerial. The domestic support will continue in developing countries, exports subsidies by the developed countries will be eliminated by the year 2013, and undue restrictions on market access imposed by the developed countries will be eliminated.
Specifying the growing involvement of Multinational Corporations (MNCs) in the agricultural sector, including their merits and demerits, he said that it would create competition that would ensure fair price to the farmers. He further stressed the need for a balance between imports and subsidy support to the producers. He urged to creating global market and quality control if India could become a developed country, and put the onus on NGOs to don the role of facilitator and mediator by informing the grassroots about WTO issues.
Contemporary Policies: Textiles, Handloom & Handicrafts
Sudhir Bailur, Assistant Director, Textiles Committee, Ministry of Textiles, Government of India, highlighted the vision, objectives and targets of the ‘National Textile Policy 2000’, which called upon, among others, to increase share in the global market though quality, economic growth and sustainable employment. It calls upon the role of state government, NGOs, entrepreneurs in ensuring technical upgradation, productivity enhancement and quality consciousness, and set an exports target of US$50bn by 2010.
Promoting Textiles, Handloom & Handicrafts Sectors: Role of Government & Civil Society
Manisha Gupta, IPR Consultant, Jaipur, discussed the handloom and handicrafts sectors, which have been of great importance but with increasing openness there has arisen a need to protect Intellectual Property of the weavers, artisans, etc. The globalisation should be looked at as facilitator in increasing trade, employment generation, enhancing mobility, increasing productivity, creating design and attaining market access.
She listed main characteristics of handloom and handicrafts sectors, which include artistic, aesthetics, creativity, visual element and design content. It also includes labour, creativity and skill intensive and local ethnicity and culture.
She informed imminent threats to these sectors from power loom sector and globalisation, especially China whose products are being sold in India at attractive prices.
Then she identified the key problems being faced by these sectors, such as lack of contemporary design, quality standards, product diversification, misuse of brand protection, authenticity, value addition, lack of effective documentation or certification of handloom products, etc.
She outlined the role of government in promoting certain measures for these sectors: framing effective policies; setting and implementing quality standard; upgrading brand products; promoting certification and authentication; ensuring Geographical Indication (GI), for instance, the registration of Kota Doria Saree under GI; encouraging research, design and documentation; establishing Common Facilitation Centre (CFC); and playing the role of a facilitator and implementer.
Next, she explained the role of civil society in promoting these sectors: ensuring effective implementation of government’s policies; generating awareness amongst target beneficiaries; performing the role of a ‘catalyst’ by monitoring government’s policies, schemes, programmes; and undertaking research and comparative focused studies.
In the end, she pointed out the role that the consumers need to play in buying the authentic products.
Post Hong Kong WTO Ministerial Scenario: Opportunities and Challenges for Agriculture, Textile, Handloom & Handicrafts Sectors in Rajasthan
The participants raised the following key concerns:
- Declining of leather industry, including the problems of workers;
- Problems of the farmers in getting fair prices;
- Lack of diversification of handloom products;
- Need for correct information about proper use of manure/fertilizer;
- Requirement of Consultation with the District Industry Centres (DICs); and
- Necessity of the stakeholders to get hold of the problem and to provide the solution.
Plan of Action:
It was decided to take up the issues discussed in the workshop to the Government and the Panchayati Raj Department for their proper implementation.
Prof. C S Barla, Consulting Economist, Jaipur, called for a need for design improvement at the grassroots only. For example, each earthen pot made by the potters fetches the maximum price of Rs 50 or 60. However, if a little design is applied to it and is marketed from bigger cities, then the price would stand at Rs 3,000. He asked the civil society organisations (CSOs) to act as a medium to raise the problems of the grassroots to the government. Indian manufacturers should be quality and cost conscious to access the global market and assurance form developed countries to eliminate subsidies by 2013