NHRC issues notice to centre on land acquisition act


New Delhi, Feb. 26 (PTI): The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has issued notice to the Centre on a petition seeking amendment in the “out-dated” Land Acquisition Act 1894, which it alleged was being used “arbitrarily” against farmers to grab their land.

The petitioner P Pullarao, an economist from Andhra Pradesh, moved the Commission alleging that in the past three years many acres of land has been acquired under the Act, displacing over 10 million farmers across the country in the name of development.

“No explaination is being given by the state governments or officials. The land is taken away using the Act. Farmers are thrown away from their villages without ensuring them any proper rehabilitation,” he said.

Pointing out “flaws” in the current land acquisition procedure, he said, “the District Collector issues a notification of land acquisition. It is then followed by revenue officials giving notice of vacation from the property.”

While drawing the attention of the Commission to the various provisions under Special Economic Zones (SEZs) which does not allow any public hearing on the issue of land acquisitions, Pullarao said it amounts to human rights violation.

Terming the Section 3 (2) of Chapter II titled “Establishment of SEZ” as a “bully” act on the part of the government, Pullarao has sought intervention of the NHRC in the matter.

The section states that “any person who intends to set up a SEZ may after identifying the area make a proposal to the state government concerned for the purpose of setting up the SEZ”.

In Andhra Pradesh, alleged Pullarao, the officials had been grabbing the land by forcing the farmers to voluntarily accept the compensation whatever decided by them.

Seeking suspension of the land acquisition Act, the petitioner has urged the NHRC to direct the Ministry of Rural Development to amend it in a “sensitive manner.”

Taking cognisance of the complaint, the Commision has also issued notice to Andhra Pradesh to submit the factual report in the matter within six weeks.

1,400 suicides in one region alone last year


P. Sainath

Ramesshwar Kuchankar decided that the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee was where he would take his own life. He did, on November 28 in Panderkauda, Yavatmal. Ten days later, Dinesh Ghughul was shot dead by the police at the Wani cotton market in the same district. And Pundalik Girsawle walked into the premises of the agricultural officer, Wani, and killed himself there 12 days after Ghughul’s death.

Kuchankar was 27, Ghughul was 38, and Girsawle 45. Different people in several ways. Yet they represent the same new – and growing – trend in Vidharbha’s farm deaths [in the state of Maharashtra, east of Mumbai]. More and more such farmers are directly blaming state policy – not drought or floods – for their misery. Some confront the Government in tragic ways. Where Girsawle and Kuchankar chose to commit suicide was in itself a statement. And for some months now, the suicide notes of farmers are talking directly to Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh and even to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

“Don’t blame my family for my action,” says the suicide note of young Kuchankar. “I will never forgive anybody who does.” He perhaps foresaw a standard government explanation of farm suicides: “family dispute.” And in one poignant sentence, addresses the 19-year-old girl he had wed just six months ago: “Pratibha, I am sorry. Please get remarried.” He blames the procurement price for cotton as the source of farmers’ distress. “We are fed up with the delay in procurement and crashing prices. This will further aggravate the situation.”

His message to Mr. Deshmukh: “Mr. Chief Minister give us the price.” And to Home Minister R.R. Patil “if you do not give us a price of Rs.3,000 per quintal, suicides will surge.” Kuchankar wrote: “The cotton price has fallen to Rs.1,990 a quintal. We cannot manage with that. Which is why I am giving up my life.” The suicide note is a bunch of anguished scribbles across a sheet of paper.

Pundalik Girsawle chose the Agricultural Office in Wani to make his point. He was seeking Rs.4,800 to buy a bullock cart under the Prime Minister’s relief package. He had seen four years of crop failure. His home being close to the Tejapur forest, wild animals devastated his fields. Household health expenses were rising. He sought the agricultural officer’s aid.

“He went to that office 15 times,” his mother Parvatabai told us in Tejapur. “Look, he even sold one of the doors he had bought for this house. Why? To pay for his frequent bus tickets to Wani. But someone there demanded a bribe. When he threatened to commit suicide, they told him `you do what you like.’ He was shattered.” He chose that very office as the site of his suicide.

Neighbours allege that the cheque for some Rs.4,400 [approx 45 rupees to US$1] found on his body “was planted there to cover up the racket his suicide exposed.” His five-member family now depends on the Rs.30 his widow Sunita brings in on those days she can find work. “What happens to Pundalik’s three daughters,” asks Parvatabai. They are aged 14, 12, and 10. Meanwhile, officials declared it a “non-distress” suicide. A view echoed in sections of the media that had never been to the village or met his family.

“There is no way the government can record these two as farm suicides,” says Kishore Tiwari of the Vidharbha Jan Andolan Samiti. “Acceptance would highlight their words and actions – which directly implicate and expose the government and its policies. Hence they have to be called fake and the families denied compensation.”

In August the suicide note of cotton grower Ramakrishna Lonkar in Wardha district had made news. “After the Prime Minister’s visit and announcements of a fresh crop loan, I thought I could live again,” Lonkar wrote. But, he concluded, he found nothing had changed on the credit front. Or on other policies. The same month saw Sahebrao Adhao of Amravati district paint a picture of usury, debt, and land-grab in his suicide note. Yet again, a victim had captured the failure of both system and policy in writing.

“This trend now causes huge trouble for the government,” says Mr. Tiwari. “All the cover-ups and paid-for bogus `studies’ finding other causes for the deaths are destroyed when the farmer explains in detail why he is killing himself. And points a finger at the government’s wrong policies.”

Dinesh Ghughul’s case is more complex. “He was not part of the protests that burst out in Wani that day,” says his widow Savita at their home in Mendoli village. Huge delays in cotton procurement angered farmers. Just 56 procurement centres were at work where there had been 300 three years ago. In the chaos that followed, Ghughul fell to police bullets. “He went to Wani to sell his cotton. Why kill him for that,” she asked Mr. R.R. Patil. “He told me, `what has happened has happened. But now let us help you and your family.'” The huge public anger meant this family got some compensation for the loss of its bread-winner. But it is in bad shape. And it has only an APL card. The family feels the protest that led to his death was a statement. That it captured his own plight even if he was not part of it.

Farmers’ suicides in Vidharbha go on relentlessly. The first three weeks of January saw over 50. The State Government’s own website has conceded over 1,400 suicides in just six districts of the region during 2006. However, the figures are kept down by increasing, each month, the “rate of rejection” of suicides. That is, the government argues that most of these suicides are not due to agrarian distress but “other causes.” Such as family disputes, drunkenness, and the like.

Rejecting most of the deaths as “not eligible” for compensation helps “slow down” the number of suicides. On paper at least. The VJAS points out that the “rejection rate” has risen every month since the Prime Minister’s visit last June. “And yet,” says Mr. Tiwari, “the suicides go up. Just look at their own total figure.” The government’s website concedes — on the basis of the biggest ever survey done in Vidharbha which covered close to ten million farmers — that over three qarters of these are in distress in these six districts. And that nearly two million are in “maximum distress.” That distress is showing. And the farmers taking their own lives are making no secret of who they blame for it.

P. Sainath is the rural affairs editor of The Hindu (where this piece initially ran) and the author of Everybody Loves a Good Drought. He can be reached at: psainath@vsnl.com.

[Hindu] A question of Indian pride


India’s democratic experiment, with all its flaws, and the often-dismissed version of Nehru-Gandhian secularism are things Indians can be proud of. But these are seldom the things that Indians are asked to be proud of.
Who cares about farmer suicides now? Who cares about the children of immigrant workers? India is busy following the West, even when accusing it of racism, following It faithfully into the fast lane of neo-liberalist progress.
THE 60th year of independent India started with a fog that grounded most domestic flights and closed schools in North India throughout the first two weeks of January.
In Noida, the booming chaotic suburb of Delhi, which is actually in the adjoining state of Uttar Pradesh (UP), 2007 was also presaged by one of the biggest crime sensations of modern India. It was reported that a millionaire industrialist, who used to sip whiskey sprinkled with gold flakes, and his servant had killed at least 20 — and probably more — children over the past few years. Their modus operandi appeared to be simple: entice a child into the `farmhouse’, used basically as a holiday `stud’ resort by the millionaire, rape and murder him or her, cut him into pieces and dump the bag in the drain that ran behind the house.
Various theories
In spite of repeated complaints against the house and about the stink emanating from the drain, the local UP police had ignored the matter. It appeared that, apart from being rich, the culprit and his accomplice had concentrated on children of immigrant workers, not interfering with the children of local villagers or the many Delhi prostitutes who frequented the place. When the matter finally came to light, it was because the servant — behind his master’s back — murdered a Delhi prostitute, whose father managed to be heard more than immigrant labourers from Bihar or Bangladesh tend to be. Since then, India has been discussing various theories: on the one side, that of cannibalism and sex murders, and on the other that of organ trade. Both have their supporters in the argumentative middle classes. As for the debates in those vast Delhi slums of immigrant and landless labourers from the agricultural hinterlands, well…
One news item that almost slipped past the argumentative middle classes in the first weeks of January was the promise by a state Chief Minister that he will be accessible to farmers overburdened with loans, advanced by banks rather than the traditional moneylender. He urged the farmers not to commit suicide.
Between 25,000 and 100,000 Indian farmers commit suicide every year, unable to cope with the loans and unforgiving conditions of a booming, liberalised economy. Unlike immigrant workers whose children were killed and cannibalised in Noida, most of these farmers do not come from places like Bihar. Places like Bihar are too backward to progress into modern versions of genocide. The farmers who commit suicide belong to the more progressive and affluent states of India.
Much to be proud of
India is booming. Doubt it not. Indians are also constantly told to be proud. Say with pride you are a Hindu, was one of the two slogans that launched the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on its path to electoral success in the late 1980s. Today, we Indians are urged to be proud in films, advertisements, editorials. We are urged to be proud of our nuclear capacity and the nuclear deal signed between India and George Bush (which critics like Chomsky insist is a well-aimed American nail in the coffin of an internationalised nuclear non-proliferation treaty). We are urged to be proud of our professional classes and booming national economy, which has been leapfrogging at a rate close to ten percent. We are even urged to be proud of our cricket team, which regularly flatters to deceive.
To be honest, there is much to be proud about in India. While the booming economy is only a mixed blessing, India is a working example of a democracy that has survived adverse conditions. In many ways, India’s democratic experiment, with all its flaws, offers a better model to countries in Asia, Africa and South America than the much-touted and sanitised democracies of privileged North Europe. Again, India’s distinctive and often-dismissed version of Nehru-Gandhian secularism might be a better model to follow today than the secularism of Europe, which is a supposedly atheistic superstructure reared on a solid but purposefully obscured Protestant base. These are things Indians can be proud of. But these are seldom things that Indians are asked to be proud of.
India poised
The Times of India launched January 1, 2007, with an ad-lib-type boxed item covering most of the front page. “India poised,” it was called. It started with the reasonable observation that “there are two Indias in this country”. Then it fitted these two Indias within an implicit neo-liberalist hierarchy: “One India is straining at the leash… The other India is the leash. One India wants. The other India hopes. And one India… is looking down at the bottom of the ravine and hesitating. The other India is looking up at the sky and saying, it’s time to fly.”
Sonorous words, these. And empty ones. For, if interpreted with generosity, they do not really account for the farmers who commit suicides or the slum children who are cannibalised for sex or organs. And if interpreted with scepticism, they are an attempt to condone — some might even claim endorse — the genocide that lies hidden in the heart of rampant neo-liberalism. For if that other India — the India of failed farmers and slum workers — is the leash, then perhaps the only way out is to look the other way while that leash is cut to pieces.
January 2007 was significant and revealing because this year will mark the 60th anniversary of India’s independence. But already, as the first month of India’s 60th year lumbered to a close, attention has shifted from the cannibalising or organ-trading millionaire of Noida. Instead, the media — and not just in India — were agog with discussions of a post-modern reality show. A vacant white ex-housewife vilified a vacant Indian starlet appearing on “Big Brother”, perhaps in racist terms. Who cares about farmer suicides now? Who cares about the children of immigrant workers? India is busy following the West, even when accusing it of racism, following it faithfully into the fast lane of neo-liberalist progress. The luxury cars on this highway — of which at least 10 new models will be launched in India this year — do not pause for anyone down the rugged cline that leads to the ravaged fields of human endeavour. And why should they?
After all, what is happening in India is only one version of what has happened in the world: the history of progress and modernity in Europe or US or Australia is a testament to the `inevitability’ of silent genocides, that of the displaced, minorities, Jews, gypsies, aborigines etc. Perhaps other kinds of progress and modernity are also possible. Perhaps Indian democracy and secularism, to take only two examples, are weak pointers in that untraced direction. But then, who stops to talk about democracy or secularism on the highways of global neo-liberalism? Who dares take pride in these brave but flawed experiments in India today?
The writer is Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Aarhus, Denmark.

Posted by Mohit Garg at Saturday, February 24, 2007

Protest march against suicides by farmers, SEZs


Madhur Tankha

Activists demand creation of a Zero Hunger Act

NEW DELHI: Members of Youth for Justice, Kisan Log Abhiyan and MCKS Food for Hungry Foundation jointly staged a march at Jantar Mantar here on Sunday protesting against the continuing farmers’ suicides.

Wearing masks, the protesters holding banners like “The Constitution Guarantees Me Right to Life Yet Death Haunts Me All The Time” shouted slogans against the United Progressive Alliance Government’s policies that were leading to lack of livelihood for farmers across the country. They called for a Zero Hunger Act.

Claiming that the Haryana Government had sent notices to farmers of Rewari to hand over their agricultural land for Special Economic Zones, Kisan Lok Abhiyan State president Dinesh Joshi said: “We don’t mind giving barren land, but parting with fertile agricultural land for big multi-national companies is quite unreasonable.”

Stating that he had received a notice from the State Government to vacate his agricultural land, Lal Singh Yadav of Haryana said he grows “bajra” and mustard in his 10 acre agricultural land but will now be left with no option but to hand over his ancestral land to the administration. “At least farmers should have the right to decide whether they want to sell their land nor not. And the price paid to us by the administration is pittance.”

Sharing their concerns, a number of Delhi University students under the Youth for Justice banner marched with the farmers. Stating that they interacted with farmers of Vidarbha, Youth for Justice representative Kapil Mishra said the youth and the farmers had come on a common platform to awaken the Government so that it comes out with a farmer-friendly budget.

Demanding separate packages and waving off loans for farmers in all the affected districts, Mr. Mishra said organic farming should be encouraged.

“Since 1997, over 25,000 farmers across the country have taken their own lives. The worst affected places are Warangal, Amravati, Vidarbha, Karimnagar and Nizamabad. Even though we are boasting of 8 per cent economic growth, the grim fact is that our farmers are committing suicide. This means our policy-makers need to change their approach towards running the economy,” said Mr. Mishra.

Besides travelling to Vidarbha next week in March for a first hand experience with the situation prevailing in the rural areas, Youth for Justice members will visit Capital’s Connaught Place and Ansal Plaza every Sunday to distribute pamphlets to make Generation X aware of the farmers’ plight.

The rights of displaced people


Dr Sandeep Pandey

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has acquired 340 acres of village common lands, 70 acres of temple lands from the Endowments Department and 500 acres from the local Gram Panchayat – China Mambattu of the Tada Mandal in Nellore District to set up a Special Economic Zone here. Some private industrialists have purchased another 100 acres of agricultural lands in the vicinity. 400 acres of the SEZ have being given to Apache to set up a shoe factory.
Three hamlets of the panchayat, N.M. Kandrika, China Mambattu and Peda Mambattu are being affected by this SEZ. There are weavers, shepards, barbers, washer men and women and Yanadi tribals living in these villages. The most vulnerable among these are the Yanadis because they do not have any land ownership making them ineligible to receive any kind of compensation in lieu of the displacement caused by the SEZ. The question of such communities and their livelihoods which are non farm based and dependent on natural resources and Community Property Resources is the most crucial one here.
Bandi Polamma, a member of the Yanadi community says that because of the land being sold they are losing their daily wages. The water bodies too are either being taken over by the company or are being polluted as a result of which fishing is becoming increasingly difficult as a livelihood option. Apache is setting up a fence which is making it difficult to access the forest which was a source for firewood. The tribals used to earn a part of their income by selling firewood. Hence the life and livelihood of this community is getting seriously affected due to the setting up of the shoe company here.
The local community facing displacement was promised jobs, education for their children, etc. However, it turns out that all promises were false. The displaced people have been left to fend to for themselves. Only two women have got sweeper’s job in the Apache shoe factory! The people feel let down and are in a public hearing organized in Nellore on 31st January, 2007 by Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union and Andhra Pradesh Matsyakarula Union they have expressed their intention to wage a struggle for their basic rights. Earlier a public hearing organized by the Government on 6th January turned out to be a sham as no people were allowed inside the hearing.
The people are demanding that every family displaced by the SEZ must be provided 2 acres of agricultural land with irrigation facility within the Panchayat limits, a housing site with low cost house built by the government, fishing nets worth Rs. 3000, one bicycle and a compensation of Rs. 10,000 per annum for the next 25 years.
At the same public hearing people from the Midderevu village of Muthukur Mandal of the same district also presented their woes. 1329.43 acres of land in three Panchayats, Krishnapatnam, Muthukur and Thamminapatnam is being acquired by the Government to set up Krishnapatnam Greenfield Port and Krishnapatnam Ultra Mega Power Project.
Midderevu village is next to Kandaleru creek and Bay of Bengal. Land along seashore is used for parking of boats, nets, catamarans, etc. People use common lands for grazing and firewood collection. They have also planted casurina in ten acres along the seashore. The village was hit by Tsunami and was only beginning to recover from the economic shock. In violation of the CRZ regulations, the villagers are being asked to cut the casurina plantation now. They are being asked to resettle at a distance of 7 km from the seashore and the local district collector has promised jobs for every youth.
180 families living in the village, including 20 Yanadi, mostly depend on fishing for livelihood. They are completely baffled by the idea of doing fishing from a distance of 7 kms. The fish move in groups and the colour of the sea is to be watched on a regular basis to determine when to begin the fishing operations. Parking of boats and gear would become a problem. In addition they would have to buy wood and fodder, imposing extra burden on their income. The people of Midderevu also face the dilemma of how to repay the Rs. 38 lakhs loan they had collectively borrowed from fish merchants in the post-Tsunami phase on the condition of supplying their catch.
People of Midderevu would not get any compensation because they do not own any agricultural land. Their traditional occupation has been fishing. But the existing legal framework doesn’t recognize fisher people’s right over the sea, for payment of compensation.
The people of Midderevu are determined in their resolve not to be displaced before the promises being made to them are fulfilled. They want that each family being displaced be given 2.5 acres of agricultural land, house constructed for them with a cost of Rs. 1 lakh, a compensation of Rs. 5 lakhs for forgoing fishing (rights) on the sea and adequate compensation for all plantations in the households and along the sea. Collectively they want repayment of Rs. 38 lakhs loan by the government on their behalf to the fish merchants, construction of fishing harbour for safe parking of boats and gear and provision of basic infrastructure like roads, drinking water, electricity, schools and community hall, etc, at the resettlement and rehabilitation site.
The demands being made by the people of China Mambattu and Midderevu are quite legitimate considering that most of the families may be forced to completely alter their lifestyles and livelihood options. The respective compensation package being demanded in the two cases will at least ensure that the families will have a one generation cushion to rehabilitate and resettle themselves. But since the authorities are not known to be very sympathetic to the people facing displacement in such cases, it is unlikely that the demand will be met easily. However, as increasingly more and more communities are awakening to their traditional rights under threat from modern development projects, in particular, and their human rights, in general, they are throwing up more resistance all over the country. The Government will ignore these democratic resistances and demands at its own peril.
Dr Sandeep Pandey

(Dr Sandeep Pandey is recepient of Dr Ramon Magsaysay Award for the year 2002, and is a reputed social activist leading National Alliance of People’s Movements (NAPM) and People’s Union for Human Rights (PUHR). He had co-founded Asha in 1991 in Berkeley California, after which he returned back to teach at India’s premier engineering institute (IIT Kanpur). He is presently actively engaged in strengthening people’s movements across the country, and can be reached at: ashaashram@yahoo.com)

Free Trade Doesn't Help Agriculture


Anuradha Mittal | February 22, 2007

Foreign Policy In Focus

FPIF asked Anuradha Mittal of the Oakland Institute and Gawain Kripke of Oxfam the following questions:

Is it possible or desirable to construct an agricultural subsidy system in the North that protects small farmers in both the North and South? Is there a role for protective tariffs for agriculture in the global south? Some argue that agriculture should not be included in tariff reduction discussions at the WTO. Is this advisable or even possible?

This is Anuradha Mittal’s essay.

The most forceful justification for agricultural subsidies is that they are needed to save small farmers and preserve a way of life. The current agricultural subsidy system in rich countries, however, has only contributed to the decline of the countryside both in the North and the South. There is thus a contradiction between the purpose and consequence of subsidies making it obvious that there is an urgent need to move in a different direction.

The nearly U.S. $1 billion daily that rich countries spend on subsidies don’t go to farmers who resemble John Steinbeck’s Joad family. Far from benefiting small farmers, subsidies go overwhelmingly to large, capital-intensive agriculture as support is closely linked with production levels and land ownership. Most family farms get nothing but a tax bill.

In the United States, family farmers have been sold out to corporate agribusiness with ever-increasing numbers of farm bankruptcies and foreclosures reaping a grim harvest of suicides, alcoholism, and a loss of community. Subsidizing well-heeled agribusiness interests has ensured the continued exodus of independent family farmers from the land. In the 1930s, 25% of the U.S. population lived on the nation’s 6 million farms. Today America’s 2 million farms are home to less than 2% of the population. The U.S. Department of Labor projects that the largest job loss among all occupations between 1998-2008 will be in agriculture. This is not surprising when the average farm-operator household earns only 14% of its income from the farm and rest from off-farm employment. A New York Times article in 2002 reported, “The biggest economic collapse is happening in counties most tied to agriculture, in spite of the subsidies.” Out of the poorest 50 counties in the United States, 49 are rural counties.

In France, subsidies are skewed toward the rich farmers as well, with 15% of farms receiving in excess of 20,000 euros accounting for 60% of total payments. At the same time, the peasant population has declined by one third, with the number of suicides in the French countryside increasing rapidly.

This agricultural system robs not just the family farmers in rich countries but the world’s poor. Today rich countries like the United States are bound under the Agreement on Agriculture (AOA) of the World Trade Organization (WTO) obligations to commit to reducing domestic and export subsidies, increasing market access, and governing agriculture trade with more rigorous disciplines on domestic farm policies. However, the federal government has been doling out an average of $11.3 billion annually between 1995 and 2004. More than 90% goes to producers of corn, cotton, wheat, rice, and soybeans, with just 10% of farms receiving 74% of these subsidies. These five crops are dramatically overproduced and sell on global markets at below the cost of production, depressing the global commodity prices of crops that developing countries count on while wiping out poor farmers and enriching transnational food-industry giants.

The numbers are alarming. The United States provides 200 times more support in hidden export support than it declares, equivalent to $6.6 billion a year. The U.S. export price of wheat in 1995 was 23% below the U.S. cost of production; by 2001 the export price was 44% below the cost of production. In cotton, despite its higher production costs, the United States increased its world market share even when world prices fell to 38 cents a pound in May 2002. Africa lost about $300 million, with Mali and Benin losing more than their aid receipts from the United States, and Burkina Faso losing more than what it got in Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) debt relief. In 2003, around 28,000 U.S. cotton farmers received $2.4 billion, 13 times more than the entire GDP of Burkina Faso, a country where more than two million people depend on cotton production for their living. The result is a reverse Robin Hood effect: robbing the world’s poor to enrich American agribusiness.

Agriculture is the source of livelihood for over 40% of people on earth. Most of these producers are small-scale and subsistence farmers who constitute 75% of the world’s poor. This fact lends strategic urgency to the need to change an agricultural subsidy system in the North that shores up an unjust and unsustainable corporate controlled industrial food system.

First we need to dismantle one of the great myths that free trade helps farmers and the poor. It does not! Attempts to leave farmers at the mercy of the free market only hasten their demise. The focus on export crops for trade has meant increasing yields, with farmers becoming dependent on chemical inputs. Many have stopped rotating their crops, instead devoting every acre to corn, wheat, or some other commodity crop and creating vast monocultures that require still more chemicals to be sustained. This has destroyed our biodiversity. Vast industrial farms require costly equipment for planting and harvesting, increasing the capital intensity of agriculture. As costs rise, prices fall in markets flush with surplus. As prices fall, farmers need subsidies, which are available to big growers and agribusiness only. Land values and cash rents increase. This encourages heavy borrowing. Rich landowners get richer and young farmers cannot afford to get started. An agricultural bubble economy is created. Inevitably it crashes as subsidies fail to keep pace with falling crop prices. Farms go bankrupt. Free trade in agriculture starves our farmers.

Our right to food has been undermined by dependence on the vagaries of the free market promoted by the international financial institutions. Instead of ensuring the right to food for all, these institutions have created a system that prioritizes export-oriented production and has increased global hunger and poverty while alienating millions from productive resources such as land, water, and seeds. The “world market” of agricultural products simply does not exist. What exists is an international trade of surpluses in grain, cereals, and meat dumped primarily by the EU, the United States, and members of the Cairns Group. Behind the faces of trade negotiators are powerful transnational corporations such as Cargill and Monsanto, which are the real beneficiaries of domestic subsidies and international trade agreements. Fundamental change in this repressive trade regime is essential.

Not surprisingly then, farmers organizations and social movements around the world have denounced the liberalization of farm products promoted by the WTO and other regional and bilateral free trade agreements. Instead of trade, small farmers movements prioritize healthy, good quality, and culturally appropriate subsistence production for the domestic market and for the sub-regional or regional markets. These farmers’ priority is to produce for their families and communities, then to seek access to the domestic market before seeking to export.

The Doha Round of the WTO will mean certain death for untold numbers of farmers who will face increased competition from foreign subsidized products when their agricultural tariffs are reduced. If this terrible situation occurs, t he developing countries should be able to defend themselves by not reducing their tariffs on food products and products of their small farmers, and should be provided a Special Safeguard Mechanism , a tool that allows developing countries to
work against the practice of dumping that is killing peasants. Under this mechanism, a developing country can raise the tariffs on a product if there is an import surge of the product. And they should be able to choose for themselves the Special Products (SP) that are exempted from obligations of tariffs and domestic subsidies. In essence, designating products as SP means taking them out of the WTO. In addition the developing countries should also be able to revert to the use of quantitative restrictions, which they had given up in false expectation that the Northern countries would stop their protection. In the wake of WTO talks stalled at the mini-ministerial in June 2006, farmers groups worldwide, including the Asian Peasant Coalition, have already declared that all products are special products! This buffer would at least allow countries to protect their most sensitive sectors from tariff reductions, and therefore protect millions of farmers’ lives.

Agriculture and food are fundamental to the well-being of all people, both in terms of access to safe and nutritious food and as foundations of healthy communities, cultures, and environment. To ensure this we need agricultural subsidies that support communities instead of supporting commodities. Instead of production- and price-linked subsidies, a fair subsidy system would ensure small farmers access to local markets, fair prices for their products, and, when necessary, credit and technical assistance. Such a system would support the development of cooperatives and promote the consumption and production of local crops raised by small, sustainable farms. It would ensure farmers’ rights to land, seeds, and water; support conservation practices; and protect indigenous rights.

In short, this is about ensuring a new system of agricultural trade that would guarantee food sovereignty; the right of people and countries to define their own agricultural and food policies according to the needs and the priorities of local communities, including mechanisms to protect domestic food production; ensure strict control of food imports to stabilize internal market prices; and supply management systems to avoid dumping on the world markets.

Anuradha Mittal, the executive director of the Oakland Institute, is an internationally renowned expert on trade, agriculture, development, and human rights issues.

Women's land ownership in Uttar Pradesh: Question of Empowerment

Some Historians believe that it was women who first domesticated crop plants and thereby initiated the art and science of farming. While men went out hunting in search of food, women started gathering seeds from the native flora and began cultivating those of interest from the point of view of food, feed, fodder and fuel.

Women have played a key role in the conservation of basic life support systems such as land, water and flora. They have protected the health of the soil through organic recycling and promoted crop security through the maintenance of varietal diversity and genetic resistence…Therefore, without the total intellectual and physical participation of women, it will not be possible to popularise alternative systems of land management to shifting cultivation and soil erosion and promote the care of the soil and the health of economic plants and farm animals.

That women play a significant and crucial role in agricultural development and allied fields including, in the main crop production, horticulture, agro/ social forestry, fisheries, etc. There is hardly any activity in agricultural production in which women are not actively involved. In spite of significant contribution in agriculture women have no control over the land. The social norms and old traditional practices are also a major factor that restricts women’s ownership of land.

To get a clear picture of the real situation of woman farmers the Survey in five different geographical regions of Uttar Pradesh was conducted by Gorakhpur Environmental Action Group and other collaborating organizations. A total of 2500 woman farmers were surveyed on various dimensions. The focus of the survey was to identify social, legal and land related issues as that restrict the rights and interests of woman farmers.

The state of women’s control over the land presents a gloomy picture all over the state and the results of the survey also supported that fact. The high levels of gender discrimination in case of landed property in Uttar Pradesh cannot be denied because in U.P as the survey results show, only 6.5% women are legal owners of land while male ownership over the land is 87.6%.

It has been also seen that the legal title to land, access to it as a productive resource and the ability to exercise control over it and enjoy the fruits of one’s labour on it, have on the whole been denied to women. This denial to a large extent is responsible for the unequal gender inequalities within society and contributes to titling power relations of men against women. These gender inequalities in the society persist to a very large extent that denies women of their rights and powers. Even the legal and religious provisions regarding land ownership are also not favorable to women.

Women who have unparalleled role in agriculture are straight way neglected and sidelined wherever the question of money and power arises. She performs all the activities from souring to storage in her piece of land, but when it comes to marketing of produce and the financial gains, the power are snatched away from her hands.

The livelihood opportunities for women are based on their access and control over land. Almost all woman had a good and convenient access to work on their husband’s land but they exercised no control over it.

Another interesting fact turned out was that if at all female owned land in her name, the reason behind this ownership was not her empowerment factors. The ownership of females on the land was due to some exceptional factors as results show that 81% females are owners of land because they are widows and after their husband’s death farming was the only source of livelihood, on the other hand 19% females were owners of land because they were only child of their parents. In a nutshell, the concern of empowerment of women and giving them equal property rights was not reflected anywhere in the findings of survey.

Generally, women’s work in fields is that of a secondary helper of man and her hard work and labour is under-estimated. As per the World economic profile, women’s contribution is important and significant but the situation of women’s ownership on land is very weak and worse in the field of agriculture. Land is a significant form of property and is a critical determinant of economic well-being, social status and political power. The risk of poverty and the physical well-being of a woman could depend significantly on whether or not she has direct access to income and productivity assets such as land. Moreover, a woman’s economic status cannot be judged adequately by the economic status of her family. Even women whose parented or marital households are classified as rich peasant can be rendered economically vulnerable in the absence of independent economic resources. Within this general argument in favour of women’s independent access ti economic resources, the case for rights in land is especially strong. Land serves as a security against poverty, a means to meet basic needs. However, there is substantial evidence that the economic resources are in the hands of male household members which often do not benefit the female members in equal degree. The denial of property rights to women is a significant instrument of patriarchy especially if one sees patriarchy as a historically developed cultural ideological force, giving gender relations their specific character in each situation. Effective access to land is perhaps the single most significant determinant of economic and social status and power in rural India and “Women’s unequal access to it is one of the most important forms of persistent gender in equalities in India today.

In Indian society where patriarchal dictates determine the status of a woman, land policies and lands do not ensure fulfillment of this right. Legal systems are reluctant to interfere with personal laws. This maintains the inequality between a man’s and a woman’s right to property. These gender gaps need closing if indeed we are to move towards a more just society.

The woman farmer is the kingpin of agriculture not just a secondary helper. She is also the major and significant partner in agriculture. This is the truth that prevails about woman farmers but it varies largely from the real factual situations. On the basis of previous discussion, it will be concluded that, today there is a need to aware the woman farmers and getting them realize that they are the real hardworking farmers of our nation so woman farmers should be given land ownership and equal rights and men should include women in the joint ownership of land. Thus on grounds of women’s welfare and empowerment, there is a strong case for supporting women’s effective rights on land.

Laxmi Sharma