MAJOR FARMER UNIONS OF INDIA RESOLVE COLLECTIVELY TO UPHOLD FARMERS’ SEED RIGHTS
New Delhi, July 13th 2019: Farmers’ movements have decided to put up a collective fight to ensure that farmers’ seed freedoms in India are not violated in any way, in a People’s Conference held here today. Organised by Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), the Conference saw farmer leaders cutting across the ideological spectrum vowing to ensure that they will not allow another “PepsiCo India Vs. Farmers episode” to recur in India. The Conference saw legal and IPR experts and farmer leaders re-examine the PepsiCo India legal cases against nine potato farmers of Gujarat and come up with an action plan to prevent any recurrences in future.
Four potato farmers of Gujarat sued by PepsiCo India in 2018 and 2019 – Bipil Patel, Chhabil Patel, Jigar Patel and Jitu Patel – narrated the attack and intimidation by the company. The Conference saw the participation of farmers’ leaders from different states of India, like Rakesh Tikait, Yudhvir Singh and Dharmendar Malik of Bhartiya Kisan Union, Badri Narayan Chaudhary of Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, Naresh Sirohi of BJP Kisan Morcha, Ashwani Mahajan of Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, Chamarasa Patil of Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha, Kapil Shah of Beej Adhikar Manch, Kavitha Kuruganti, Ananthoo, Umendra Dutt, Rohit Parakh and Ajay Etikala of ASHA, Soma Parthasarathy of Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch, Com. KN Ramachandran of All India Krantikari Kisan Sabha, Com. Ombir Singh of All India Agragamee Kisan Sabha, N Srinivas of Rythu Rakshana Vedika, Jacob Nellithanam and Krishna Prasad of Bharat Beej Swaraj Manch, Manojbhai Solanki of Akshay Krishi Pariwar etc. Dr Suman Sahai of Gene Campaign, one of the civil society architects of India’s Protection of Plant Varieties and Farmers’ Rights Act of 2001; Colin Gonsalves, Senior Advocate in the Supreme Court; Shalini Bhutani, legal and agriculture policy analyst; Afsar Jafri, trade policy analyst and others made presentations on the plant varietal IPR regimes in India and elsewhere. Agriculture scientists like Dr Rajendra Khimani of Gujarat Association of Agricultural Sciences took part. State government agencies like Punjab State Farmers’ Commission and Karnataka Agricultural Prices Commission represented by its Chairperson Dr TN Prakash also participated in the meeting.
The Registrar General of Protection of Plant Varieties & Farmers’ Rights Authority Dr R C Agrawal shared about the implementation of PPV&FR Act 2001.
The following key points emerged in the action plan created:
• That farmers’ organisations will not allow any violation of farmers’ rights in future, will work collectively to get farmers’ rights reiterated in India’s PPV&FR Act and its implementation in an unambiguous fashion, and will create awareness amongst their own members.
• Large scale awareness building should be made the responsibility of the PPV&FR Authority to ensure that this episode does not recur again – this should cover the judiciary, legal fraternity, state government agriculture departments, researchers and plant breeders, registrants in the plant varieties registry, seed traders and others.
• Tighten the farmers’ rights provisions if and where needed, so that unambiguous interpretation in all cases is possible and no recurrences of such incidents happen again.
• A provision should be included in the Act and its Rules that no legal proceedings can be initiated against farmers in India without authorisation by the PPV&FR Authority.
• Suo motu powers to be vested with the Authority to support farmers, under Section 8 of the Act, to provide various kinds of support to farmers anywhere in the country, if any registered breeder is claiming exclusive rights.
• A demand that all PVP Certificates should contain a clause that makes the Certificate provisional to Section 39(1)(iv), and if this is not maintained by the registered breeder or representative, to revoke the certificate.
• The Authority should be empowered with adequate human and other resources so that it can uphold farmers’ rights in letter and spirit.
• State governments also to write to the Centre, to ensure that the legal provisions related to farmers rights contained in the Act are not misinterpreted in any manner.
• That any move by India towards UPOV 1991 will be resisted strongly including through the route of free trade agreements being negotiated. Similarly, there cannot be any compromise on farmers’ seed rights through any new seeds related legislations that can be tabled in the Parliament like an amended Seeds Bill etc.
• That farmers’ seed freedoms should be built in practical ways too, by reviving agro-diversity and recognising the role of women farmers in upholding seed sovereignty of farming communities. That this would also require support for market creation for farmers’ and other extant varieties.
Many speakers in this Conference also felt that PepsiCo India should pay compensation to the Gujarat potato farmers for the harassment and intimidation that they were subjected to.
For more information, please contact Kavitha Kuruganti at 8880067772.
Presentation by Afsar Jafri on Indian Plant Varieties law in comparison to other countries PVP law
Presentation by Shalini Bhutani on Farmers Seed Rights in India – Upholding the Law