Grassroots Reachout & Networking in India on Trade & Economics (GRANITE)
Rajasthan Third Outreach Meeting
Sawai Madhopur District, Rajasthan, September 22, 2005
CUTS Centre for Consumer Action, Research & Training (CUTS-CART) convened the third Outreach Meeting under the GRANITE project with an active association of Consumer Legal Help Society (CLHS), a local NGO, at the Conference Hall of Gram Panchayat (a local self government body in group of 3-4 villages), Surwal, block district Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan on September 22, 2005. This Outreach Meeting primarily focused on Agriculture Sector.
The participants in the meeting represented the groups of farmers, farm labours, panchayati raj (local self-government) members, self-help groups, community leaders, teachers, Anganwari Karyakarta female workers who facilitate the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS)-) and block level officials. There were 45 participants out of which 15 were women.
The prime objectives of the meeting were:
- to gather existing perceptions at the grassroots with regards to issues relating to agriculture sector in purview of the globalisation and World Trade Organisation (WTO);
- to identify the anti-poor impact of the existing policies; and
- to assemble them to a common platform where they could share their present livelihood concerns.
SawaiMadhopur, famous for historical background, ‘Ranthambore Fort’, ‘the Ranthambore National Park and destination for the tourists, is a backward district situated in the South-eastern part of Rajasthan State. The district population mainly consists of backward class communities with the ‘Meena’ (a tribal community) is the dominant community. The leading occupation of livelihood for majority of people is based upon agriculture and livestock. Industrially, the district is not much developed.
According to Rajasthan Human Development Report 2002, Sawai Madhopur ranked ninth in the state, with a total number of 714 villages, 5 blocks, and two towns (class I to IV). The average land holding in 1995-96 was 2.06 hectare and the net sown area (1998-99) is 57.8 percent whereas the gross irrigated area (1998-99) is 33.4 percent. The total employment in farm sector is 75.8 percent and agriculture labour is 8.4 percent. The collective employment of farmers, hunters, fishermen, loggers and related works is 75.6 percent.
Surwal is a small gram panchayat in Sawai Madhopur district with a population of around 5000. With a moderate temperature (neither too hot nor too cold) and inadequate rainfall (except during the rainy season), percentage of crop yield is good because the soil is fertile and despite improper irrigation network, the farmers take at least two to three crops in a year. Crops sown here are mainly oil seeds, maize, and gram. Though the political consciousness is high it has not brought about any substantial changes in the living standard of the communities. Mostly, the backward class communities prefer (due to reservation quota) to join government jobs.
Highlights of the discussions
Punyarupa Bhadury, Madan Giri and Rajendra Kumar of CUTS International started the meeting by giving details of the project and explained the impact of the international market scenario on the farmers from undeveloped /developing countries.
As very few participants were aware of WTO, they wanted to know the links between Agreement on Agriculture (AoA), WTO and Contract Farming. The participants enquired about fixation of agriculture products prices, availability and prices of seeds that should be sown as per AoA and terms and conditions of Contract Farming. Above all, they were very much concerned about local employment opportunities. The women farm labourers voiced their concern at rise of unemployment with the implementation of AoA and Contract Farming.
Further, the objective and the changes visible in the agriculture sector were explained to them. They are well aware of the ‘Mittal’, ‘Birla’ & several other Indian groups of companies who are now performing as multinational corporations (MNCs) due to the advantages from liberalisation and globalisation. According to their perceptions, these big people were earlier small farmers only but later with support of destiny they became big industrialists.
The history of WTO and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank (WB) were explained to the farmers in order to inform them what the government has in their mind. What India contributed in the formation of GATT and how it got formed into a particular structure i.e. WTO, where the policies, rules and regulations formed/created for trade purpose, were explained. Also, the process of WTO membership was explained to them.
While concluding the meeting, CUTS International team floated some suggestions forward. The prime suggestion to farmers was to negotiate with the state government demanding the formulation of ‘The State Agriculture Policy’ in a participative manner under the purview of AoA and WTO.
Voice from the grassroots
Jankilal, a Farmer, shared the following concerns:
- Why the government is imposing the involvement of MNCs with the farmers and government, they are proving differences between the farmers and government. Our rich culture and our close relation with governance are getting disrupted with the entry of MNCs;
- The challenge is to find out the agency/person who have invited these MNCs. Surely, the farmers are also equally responsible for the situation; and
- The farmers in the area are adopting organic farming but the main problem is to transport the agriculture produces to the international market.
Indra Jain, a Literacy Motivator, shared the following views:
- If MNCs will come for agriculture trading then what benefit the insiders (local villagers) will get?
- Farmers are ready for the international market. They are very well aware of the fact that as per demand of the market the crops are grown.
- We are aware of the fact that India is always a golden cage for outsiders due to its dependence on agriculture.
The following are the key issues emerged from Outreach Meeting:
- Under WTO and globalisation regimes, the small farmers will not survive and their livelihood will be badly affected;
- Due to globalisation, the unemployment will certainly be increased and that will lead to socio-economic disharmony;
- The history is being repeated, as a strong apprehension that the ruling of the East India Company (in the guise of WTO and globalisation) is coming back to India;
- Farmers don’t have an adequate information/substantial knowledge on WTO, Agreement on Agriculture, and globalisation;
- Increasing scope of WTO and globalisation will end the relations between the people and state;
- The MNCs will become very strong and start interfering in country’s polity, and the disadvantaged will have no voice;
- Due to a direct and unholy relation between the government and foreign companies interests/rights of the common citizens will be compromised;
- India is neither prepared nor has a strong foundation to shoulder the weight of WTO & globalisation;
- If MNCs are allowed for trading in the country, then they should be bound to do welfare for the public;
- India has to move very carefully along with the winds of globalisation;
- Farmers are neither aware of any of the agriculture policies in the state/country nor know their importance/relevance in promoting the agriculture sector; and
- Even the ministers are unaware of the agriculture policy. In fact, there is no agriculture policy in the state. The farmers were not happy at the ignorance of the ministers demanded that thepolicy should be under the Constitution.
- Farmers were concerned whether these issues will be taken to the concerned body or not. What will be done actually? What will be the benefit for the farmers by providing these details?