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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 32, August 2, 2014

India’s Stout Resistance to the TFA

Saturday 2 August 2014


While UP continues to be rocked by communal riots, the latest one being at Saharanpur after Moradabad, not to speak of Muzaffarnagar (where incessant communal bloodletting culminated in the inevitable rise of the RSS-led BJP under the steward-ship of Narendra Modi), and Hindutvavadis feverishly seek to saffronise education, something new has happened lately.

India under the Modi dispensation has taken a firm stand at the General Council meeting of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and refused to join the Trade Facilitation Agreement in its present form which insists that it withdraw the Mininum Support Price (MSP) to its farmers. India has rightly pointed out that accepting the conditionality that subsidy caps be benchmarked to food prices prevailing in the 1980s is patently unfair and unrealistic and would frustrate the objectives of the Food Security Act.

In fact, along with the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, the WTO is yet another instrument of the developed capitalist countries of the West to exploit the underdeveloped and developing countries of the world, taking advantage of the latter’s weaknesses. The primary interest of the WTO is to prise open the markets in the Third World countries and force the farmers in these countries to face an unfair competition by insisting on abolishing/drastically reducing food subsidies, while they, the Western countries themselves, would continue to protect their farmers by giving them subsidies through devious routes. Innumerable studies have exposed this game of the West. On the reverse side of this are the obstacles placed on the export of commodities from the developing countries to the developed ones on one pretext or another. In other words, denying them free market accessibility in the Western countries.

This unfair game has gone on for far too long. Under the pressure of the WTO, India had to abolish the Quantitative Restrictions (QRs) on imports in the 1990s. The Western countries now want to have greater and greater share of the markets in the developing countries forcing the local producers to face unfair competition and ultimately squeeze them out of existence. A subtext of this is the other insistence on introducing Genetically Modified (GM) crops in the backward countries. The seeds of these crops are supplied by a small coterie of companies like Monsanto.

These seeds need fertilisers that the farmers can buy only from these companies. After some time the soil becomes unfit for cultivation of non-GM crops. The aim is ultimately to bring the agriculture of the developing countries fully under the control of these multinationals. India has to take a holistic view of this challenge and convince other countries of the Third World of the need to join the battle against the exploitative machinations of the Western countries. In the second decade of the twentyfirst century the economies of the developing countries have developed sufficiently to put up a united resistance with success.

What is most significant is that both on the issue of stonewalling the TFA and offering spirited opposition to GM crops the RSS is playing a commendable role. The RSS outfit—Swadeshi Jagaran Manch—has taken the lead in this respect. And its efforts have borne fruit till date.

All these are reflective of the growing compl-exities at this point in time. A thorough analysis of the current situation cannot possibly ignore these complexities if one has to fashion out the path for the nation’s future advance. Of course a caveat is essential: how long will the BJP-led NDA pursue such a course as seen in the TFA negotia-tions? Because the possibility of the present ruling coalition buckling under US pressure in this regard cannot be overlooked. Yet as of now one cannot underestimate the importance of India’s resistance to the TFA from the perspective of our national interest.

For what those presently running the South Block want is a guarantee of food security for India’s hundreds of millions of poor as a precond-ition for the passage of the Agreement.

July 31 Analyst