Archive for May, 2008

Government of India should import iron and steel and supply it to rural India

Hon. Dr Manmohan Singhji,

Prime Minister, Govt. of India.

New Delhi.

Subject:-Government of India should import iron and steel and supply it to rural India.

Respected Sir,

Government has reduced the import duty on wheat, rice, edible oil and pulses to zero so as to bring down the inflation. Government has also stopped the export of all these commodities. Before govt. took this step farmers were getting good price for these agriculture produce. Cereals and pulses were sold for 2500 rs. to 2700 rs. per quintal. But now farmers are getting only 2100 rs to 2200 rs for tur and 2300rs to 2400 for chana. Wheat is sold below 1000 rs per quintal now ie below minimum support price. There is also depression in the oil seed prices.

May the govt. be of any political party, to import and depress the price of agriculture produce , in the name of bringing down inflation, is the common policy executed by all of them. To import wheat at higher prices and sell in the local market via public distribution system at subsidized low rates is the common practice. This year wheat price was 1400 to 1600 in the world market. But farmers in India were getting only 900 rs to 1000 rs. per quintal.

Today in the world market pulses are 600 to 700 US $ per tonne. 2500 to 3000 rs per quintal is the price of imported chana and tur. But govt of India is importing these commodities via NAFED and STC at 15% subsidized rate. This is causing depression in the prices of pulses in the local market. Similarly govt. has declared the policy of importing the palm oil and selling it in the local market at the rate 15% lesser than the rate bought.

Respected sir , in our country, in the pretext of controlling inflation, prices of essential commodities are strictly kept under control. But when will we accept that the producer of essential commodities, the farmer also faces inflation. Also why isn’t farm labourers considered eligible for implementation of sixth pay commission?

Government is now a days trying hard to bring down the prices of steel and cement. But industrialists have not yet yield to the govt. pressure.

On this background we urge you to import cement and steel and sell it in the local rural market at subsidized rate. If that is done then, those who are living in the mud houses for generations will have the opportunity to build pucca cement houses for themselves

Thankyou!

Vijay Jawandhia

Shetkari Sanghatana

Wardha

The NDA government had crushed farmers to tide over inflation

On 5/13/08, Jaideep Hardikar <jaideep.hardikar@gmail.com> wrote:

pls see the letter

tx

jaideep

ps: you may pls alter some sentences.

To,

Shri Lal Krishna Advani,

Senior BJP leader and Opposition Leader, Lok Sabha,

Subject: The NDA government had crushed farmers to tide over inflation.

Greetings!

Sixty years after India’s independence there appears no change in the policies that keep the farmers of this country always at the receiving end. The Congress party was in power in the centre and the states since 1947 for many, many years. Post emergency, you became the Minister for Broadcasting in the Janata Party-government in the Centre.

Since the Congress party was in power it was blamed for the farmers’ plight and their unabated exploitation through policies and programmes.

However, the change in governments later did not bring about any change in policies. The P V Narsimharao-government lasted five years and was the first Congress-led government free from the Nehru dynasty. It was this government that adopted the neo-liberal policies and imposed them on the nation. The global developments such as Dunkel agreement, foundation of World Trade Organization took place in the same era. One of the most important decisions of Narsimharao government was devaluation of rupee, followed by the implementation of the fifth pay commission’s recommendations.

The liberalization policies adopted by the Narsimharao government were opposed tooth and nail by not only the left but also your party. The crude oil (energy) price was rising while Indian rupee was being devalued during the same period.

The change of guards in the center followed these developments and the NDA wrested power from the Congress. Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee became the Prime Minister, and you became the deputy Prime Minister with an additional Home portfolio.

Today, there is a hue and cry over growing inflation and even the opposition parties are raising the issue with much fanfare. The prices of essential commodities such as wheat, rice, sugar, edible oil and pulses are spiraling every day. However, the prices of industrial produce, health expenditure, transportation and education costs also keep mounting with every passing year. Who will think about the income and living standard of farmers and farm-labourers against the backdrop of the fifth and now the sixth pay commission?

The economists and intellectuals deftly manipulate the statistics to portray a rosy picture of the country’s growth, and point to the 9-10% growth story; an unprecedented boom in share-markets to substantiate the logic.

Yet, when the prices of foodgrain rise, no stone is left unturned to bring down the prices in the garb of inflation. Our experience tells us that neither do farmers get adequate price to their produce, nor the consumers get foodgrain at cheaper rate. To sum up in one sentence, this has been the policy of the governments to exploit farmers for capital accumulation.

Dear Sir, the WTO came into being in 1995. The exploitation of the poor in developing countries has also grown since. You also know this that the suicides by farmers have increased dramatically since 1997.

May I ask you why did the farm suicides rise in Andhra Pradesh, where Chandrababu Naidu’s government was in power and the NDA’s in the centre after 1997? Why did the suicides by farmers rise also in Kerala during that period?

The reason for today’s inflation is rooted in the policy-change in 1991, with the onset of neo-liberalisation. And it’s a natural effect of those policy changes.

You claim that the Atal Behari Vajpayee-government had kept inflation under tabs. We feel it’s an evidence of the fact that your government crushed farmers by depriving him of the remunerative prices to keep foodgrain cheap. Your government had imported cheap pulses and edible oil to crush the local prices. Also, may I ask why did your government export wheat at US$ 90 per tone (or Rs 450 per quintal)? We feel that leaders of your stature should place the facts before the people of this country. Would you allow the free export of foodgrain, edible oil and sugar if your government was in power today? To make my submission more clear, I would like to draw your attention to the global prices of wheat, rice, edible oil or pulses then and now.

When the BJP-led coalition government was in the centre, wheat prices were $90 per ton (10 quintal); paddy was $270-300 per tone and palm oil prices hovered between $260 and $400 per tone. Similarly, the prices of pulses ranged from Rs $350 to $450 per tone. Today, the prices of wheat are $450-500; of rice are more than $500 and that of palm oil are $1200 per tone. Had your government allowed a mere ten per cent rice in the prices of agriculture produce including foodgrain, pulses and edible oil, the current prices would not have pinched the consumers as they do today.

Respected sir, the government, which is unable to tide over inflation, is able to control the prices of potatoes, onions and sugar; why? The real reason is that the farmers have always produced more in this country. Is it a crime to produce more foodgrain?

I had asked the same question to the Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, during his visit to our village Waifad in Wardha on June 30, 2006. There’s no doubt in my mind that the poor should get foodgrain cheap, but why do successive governments punish a farmer-producer and keep him poor?

Sir, I raise the same question to you, because you may be our next Prime Minister?

In the hope of a response from you,

Yours sincerely,

Vijay Jawandhia,

Founder, Shetkari Sanghatna,

Wardha

Thanks to Vijay Jawandhiya on the points of inflation

Vijay Jawandhia

Vijay Jawandhia is one of the leading farm activists in Vidarbha, the region that has India’s highest rate of farmers’ suicides – eight per day. Jawandhia was the founder member of the Shetkari Sanghatana. He is also President of the Kisan Co-ordination Committee, a coalition of farmers organizations across the country. For one year, the Maharashtra government appointed Jawandhia as the director of the Maharashtra Cotton Federation.

In rural India, the landless and the landed farmers are all dependent on the agricultural economy. If the prices of agricultural products rise and are stabilized, then wage rates will also go up, and because of that the money supply in the economy increases. Only if the wage rate increases, can people cope with price rise.

What is happening in our economy now, is that the price of essential commodities have gone up but the government is afraid it is leading to inflation. So it takes measures and imports foodgrains to reduce the price. As a result, farmers don’t get the benefit of price rise. When the price is high, farmers shift to that crop to take advantage of the price. Then the production increases and it is used as an excuse to reduce prices, so farmers never get the price they hoped for while sowing the crop.

That’s why higher prices should be stabilised. Support prices should be increased. For example, In West Bengal, the CPM government is worried because of falling potatoes prices. Last year, it was Rs 15-18 per kg. Now, it is only Rs 2 per kg because production has increased. If the government wants the market to prevail, why do they intervene to reduce prices for farmers? Why don’t they intervene to ensure that farmers get a fair price when the market prices crash?

In the last decade, there have been low prices in the international commodity markets due to subsidies to farmers in developed countries. We imported cheap food then. Our farmers have no subsidy and we were not allowed to increase prices from 1997-2003. L.K. Advani claims that their government controlled inflation. But I want to refute that myth. They controlled inflation at the cost of the farmer. During their rule, 110 lakh bales of cotton were imported in 7 years. Because of this cheap import, cotton farmers in Andhra Pradesh started committing suicide. They also imported pulses and palm oil to keep prices low.

Now, prices in the international market are high. Wheat prices have shot up from $90 per tonne in 1999 to $500 per tonne now. Rice was $240 per tonne in 1999, but now, it is more than $500 per tonne. Pulses have increased from $300-400 per tonne in 1999 to $600 now. Cotton was $1.10 per pound in 1994, then 47 cents in 1998-2000, and now it is 70 cents. The prices have risen now because the US government has decided to subsidize the production of maize for ethanol, and also because of the drought in Australia. Rice production has fallen too and because of the wheat shortage there is a greater demand for rice, pushing up the prices further.

The Indian government has reduced import duties of agricultural products in the last year. Import duty of wheat was brought down from 50% to zero, pulses from 10% to zero and rice from 80% to zero. Edible oils had a duty of 90% which was reduced to 20%. But despite all this, the government can’t seem to be able to control prices. They were controlling prices by importing cheap. That’s not possible any longer with high international prices.

Mr Chidambaram says it is a problem of ‘supply side’ management. So, we must increase supply by increasing production and importing. If the farmer increases production, he won’t get the price because the government will reduce the price. So what does the farmer gain by increasing production? The more he produces, the more prices fall.

The government is adopting an inflationary economy. It is increasing money supply by announcing the 6th pay commission and allowing foreign investments and inflows. Price rise of agricultural products is very necessary so that producers of essential commodities can survive in the economy. When we talk about inflation, we should not only talk about prices of wheat, rice and sugar but we should also include the price of iron, cement, petrol, diesel, plastic, health care, education and transport. We have to re-define what is price rise. Too much weightage is on food items. It should be more on the industrial and service sector. Only then will we be doing justice to the food economy.

In 1980, one litre of diesel was 84 paise and one kg of wheat was Rs. 1. Now, diesel is Rs 35 per litre, while the support price of wheat is only Rs 10 per kg. The question for the farmer is not only what price he gets, but what is the per kg purchasing power of agricultural produce. That is what the common farmer wants from the system. In 1973, the price of 10 grams of gold was the same as one quintal of cotton – Rs 300. That’s why cotton was called ‘white gold’. Now, 10 grams of gold (Rs 12,000) is more than four times the price of one quintal of cotton (Rs 2,700).

The panic about price rise is an anti-farmer urban bias. While announcing the 6th Pay Commission, why doesn’t the government also announce an increase in wages under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme? Doesn’t inflation affect everyone, not only government employees? If the wage rate increases, the cost of production also goes up so support price should also be hiked. In fact, there is a need to increase prices further. We demand that the minimum wage of agricultural labour should be the same as the minimum wage under the 6th Pay Commission. The Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) should use this to calculate and announce the support price accordingly. M.S. Swaminathan has recommended that the support price should be the cost of production plus 50% profit. At present, it is only 15% profit.

The entire system works against the producers of essential commodities. There is no denying that poor people must get cheap food. But to keep food cheap for poor people, the government is keeping food producers poor. Instead of increasing the subsidy for food distribution under the ration system, they are transferring the burden on to farmers. That’s why they are keeping support prices low. If the government were to stabilize prices at today’s higher prices for 3 years, they would see a change in the rural economy.

Farmers don’t get an assured price, especially when it’s time to sell the harvest. This year, when we started selling soyabean, it was Rs 1,400 per quintal. Now, after everything is sold, the price has gone up to Rs 2000. It’s the same for all crops. Right now, farmers are not getting the international price of wheat, which is Rs 1600-2000 per tonne because the government is importing wheat. The support price is still only Rs 1050-1150. The government would rather import at a high price than pay Indian farmers the market rate.

Inflation has hit the rural economy too. People cannot afford medical facilities or education. A CT scan or MRI costs nothing less than Rs 3000 to 4000. How can anyone earning the average rural income of Rs 1500 per month afford it? That’s why people are so deep in debt or are just living without medical treatment by the grace of God. People in villages are living because they are not dying.

To get admission into a Diploma in Education (D.Ed) course, you have to pay a donation of Rs 2 lakh. Government colleges are not increasing seats in proportion with population growth. Instead, the state is promoting private colleges, which charge hefty donations. For example, the donation for an engineering college is anywhere between Rs 2 – 7 lakh, and the fee is Rs 40,000. Who can afford this?

The purchasing power of the common man is reducing. The gap between urban and rural India is increasing. Urban India is becoming Super India and Bharat is becoming Ethiopia.

(as told to Dionne Bunsha)

Dharna aganist GM crops on may 6th at New Delhi

Dear Friends,

The struggle to keep our crops. farmlands and food safe and protected from Genetic Engineering is going through a very decisive phase. Last year you may all remember that we wrote and sent letters signed by all to the Central Government – PM, Agriculture Minister and the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee demanding that Bt-Brinjal not be released. The State of Kerala has also officially demanded that kerala should be kept GM Free. A few States like Tamilnadu, Orissa and West bengal are also seriously discussing the issue at the Government level.
To highlight the issue and to demand that Genetic Engineering be stopped in agriculture in India, hundreds of organisations across the country are meeting at New Delhi on 6th May 2008. Thousands of farmers, actvists, consumer organisation members, scientists are expected to come together at Jantar Mantar.

Signatures from all over thr country has been collected in banners to be displayed in New Delhi, and many MPs and other political leaders have declared their solidarity.

From Kerala, 14 people including farmers from Palakkad and Wyanad, consumer activsists from Trivandrum and civil society members from Trivandrum, Chengannur and Palai are participating as a support to this One-day dharna.

A programme flyer is pasted below

If any of you are in New Delhi on May 6th, please do visit us at the Jantar Mantar and join the protest. If not, please send the mail to as many friends in Delhi and ask them to come and lend their support.
Please Call for details Ph : 09995358205

with warm regards

Sridhar
Are you aware of the dangers of GM Crops & Foods?

Did you know that Genetically Modified crops cannot be recalled, if they are released into the environment? It is an irreversible process since we are talking about living organisms, modified at a fundamental level. That is the reason why it is important for all of us to understand about GM crops and their implications.

GM crops are created by inserting a foreign gene into a plant – these genes are often brought from non-plant sources, with proven hazardous implications! Further, the process of genetic engineering itself causes several changes inside an organism’s DNA, [DNA, as you know, is often referred to as the ‘building blocks of life’]. The resultant implications are in the form of adverse health or environmental impacts.

Studies with GM foods have found various adverse health results like stunted growth, impaired immune systems, bleeding stomachs, misshapen cell structures in different organs, liver and kidney lesions, reduced digestive enzymes, inflamed lung tissue, higher offspring mortality etc. Further, there are many environmental hazards like increased incidence of pests and diseases, pest and weed resistance, impacts on beneficial organisms, increased use of chemicals in farming, potential impacts on soil and changes in associated eco-systems. Many of these potential hazards have already manifested themselves in the past six years of Bt Cotton cultivation in India, the only GM crop allowed so far. There are also ethical implications with the entry of GM crops – if you are a vegetarian and in your food, genes from an animal have been inserted, would you continue to be a vegetarian?

GM crops have been rejected by a whopping majority of nations around the world and by individual communities. Why are we in India allowing ourselves to become the scapegoats in this experimentation by MNC science in search of more and more markets? In the name of GE technology, it is companies like Monsanto which are making huge profits, in millions of rupees, at the expense of poor Indian farmers.

In India, we are standing on the verge of the first food crop from being allowed into the country on a commercial basis – Bt Brinjal. It is up to you to decide whether you will allow this GM food crop pushed by American interests onto your plate or not. If not, this is the time to ACT.

DON’T ALLOW ANY MORE GM CROPS/FOODS INTO THE COUNTRY.

ASK YOUR ELECTED LEADERS WHAT THEIR STAND IS. ASK DIFFERENT PARTIES’ CANDIDATES WHAT THEIR STAND IS AND CHOOSE YOUR VOTE CAREFULLY.
DECIDE TODAY THAT YOU WILL REMAIN GM-FREE. SPREAD THE MESSAGE TO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY AND ENSURE THAT THEY REMAIN GM-FREE TOO.

JOIN US IN A DAY-LONG ANTI-GM PROTEST
AT JANTAR MANTAR IN DELHI ON MAY 6TH 2008
SAY NO TO GM CROPS & FOODS.