Govt Policies & Laws going against farmers: FDI in retail & Land Acquisition Bill unacceptable: South Indian farmer leaders

South Indian farmer’s movements, under the banner of South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers’ Movements (SICCFM) have come all the way to Delhi to criticize the anti-people approach of the LARR bill as well as the undemocratic approval of FDI in retail by the UPA.

“The UPA government is proving itself to be a dangerous anti-people and corrupt government. After shocking the country with the largest corruption scams in India’s history, they are trying to grab our farm land to give to corporations for private profit. Land is not a commodity, it is our identity and we need it for our livelihood and to feed the nation. We farmers have an inalienable right to land. The bill should be focused on people’s real development and not for profiteering by a few,” said Chamarasa Patil, the president of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS).

SICCFM criticized the LARR bill, now called ‘The Right to Fair Compensation, Resettlement, Rehabilitation and Transparency in Land Acquisition’ Bill 2012 because it has not addressed fundamental questions about lands’ critical role in food security, rural regeneration and livelihood security of millions.  Furthermore the government’s total disregard to the Parliamentary Standing Committee recommendations is disgraceful. The Standing Committee had clearly reflected the major concerns of the people in its report. When the industry did not like it, the GOI went ahead and diluted the bill and handed it over to a group of ministers.

The fundamental principle of the bill is flawed. It is mainly focused on urbanization, industrialization and ‘infrastructure development’ rather than food and livelihood security of the masses. By using the language of fair compensation they are overshadowing the real purpose of the bill which is to divert people’s land to private industries. “The wording of the bill is such that “infrastructure development” in the name of “public purpose” can mean anything notified by the government. For example, it can include projects like golf courses, elite residential housing, expensive private hospitals. In which way are these going to help the poor who are giving up their most vital resource? This type of so called development is for elite consumerism and not for the masses of India. Our local gram panchayats should decide whether a project is for real public purpose or not” said Nandini Jairam, women’s leader of KRRS.

SICCFM has been asking for a national debate on what constitutes ‘public purpose’ in the law. Any land acquisition by the state for any private entity, including under PPP projects is unacceptable and does not constitute public purpose. Already lakhs of hectares of farmland have been converted to non-agricultural uses, and this is a dangerous trend. We need to conserve farmland for future generations.

Furthermore, the government has already acquired thousands of hectares that are lying idle all over the country. “The government needs to first bring out a white paper to show what is the status of past land acquisitions and farm land conversion to industry before blindly making laws to hand over land to industry. We also need a full, real picture of compensation and R&R related to past land acquisitions. Lakhs of people have not still received compensation or R&R or promised jobs. Until all these issues are resolved, we demand that all land acquisition should be suspended immediately,” said KS Puttanaiah of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha (KRRS).

Speaking on the issue of FDI in multi-brand retail, Nagendra of KRRS said, “The Government has already not kept the promises it had made when 100% FDI in single brand retail was allowed. Then they had said that there will be 30% mandatory procurement from small/village/cottage industry. Now they are conveniently saying that procurement from village industry should be just ‘preferable’, ‘where feasible’. Similarly any protection mechanisms for farmers will become diluted in the case of FDI in multibrand retail also.”

Analysis from elsewhere clearly shows that big retail chains like WalMart and Carrefour operate through market concentration and monopolies. In the US, small or medium farmers cannot sell their produce to a grocery store because the chain stores have central procurement only from farms of thousands of acres. Big retail chains also practice many unfair practices such as maintaining exclusive supply list of farmers or removing them from the list at their whim. Whereas the Indian retail business today has no such domination by powerful players.

Big retail will not create much employment either. Indian retail sector employs 40 million people and is estimated at $400 billion while Wal-Mart, with a similar turnover of $420 billion, employs only 2.1 million people. It is the Indian retail sector which is a much bigger employer. Evidence shows that farmers’ incomes would suffer too. Out of the food dollar, farmers in the US now receive only 4% while in 1950 it was 70%.  Also big retail does not buy, or pay over the counter at current prices. They buy the nation’s next harvest in futures market and fix farm prices. They also import cheap goods, pulling prices down and destroying local production like they have done in the US.

“The real aim of Wal-mart and other retail giants is to control most of the supply chain, so that it will wipe out whatever little power the farmers have now. This is what the MNCs and US want and this is what the Indian government is delivering. If the government is really serious about helping farmers, they need to strengthen farmers’ bargaining capacity in the marketplace,” said Chukki Nanjundaswamy of KRRS.

“In a nutshell, there is nothing of benefit to the majority of the farmers of this country and we demand that the government retract this notification immediately”, said Kannaiyan Subramaniam, Coordinator of SICCFM.

SICCFM shared a detailed note on both FDI and LARR bill and called upon all Parliamentarians to engage with the issue in greater detail and uphold the interests of farming communities across the country.

SICCFM Press Release, New Delhi, October 5th 2012

For more information, contact: 
Kannaiyan Subramaniam: 09444989543; Email: sukannaiyan69@gmail.com

South Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movements (SICCFM)
636, Ideal Homes Township,
Raja Rajeswari Nagar, Bangalore -5600098. Karnataka.
Telephone +91 94444089543
Email: siccfm@gmail.com

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