Editorial Note: Since the writing of this article, the WTO Ministerial has been indefinitely postponed. The demands of the Indian farmers’ movement in the face of global neoliberalism, however, remain just as relevant.
The ministerial level meeting of the World Trade Organization (WTO) will take place from November 30 to December 3. Generally, during such meetings, imperialist countries pressure developing countries to abolish their agricultural subsidies according to the policies of “free trade.” The new agricultural laws [the BJP’s neoliberalizing reforms against which the farmers’ movement struggled] were a result of the dictates of such meetings.
Even now, the [farmers’ movement’s] demands pertaining to the legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP), the state purchase of crops, and the legal guarantee of the Public Distribution System (PDS) stand in direct contradiction to the dictates of the WTO. Indian rulers have already committed there, in writing, not to guarantee MSP, and the coming meeting is destined to bring more of the same. Indian rulers will be issued further guidelines to which they will meekly comply. Here, in our country, those guidelines will be implemented under the guise of multiplying farmers' income. When, in July this year, draft text for this coming meeting was submitted, it included two proposals which would wreak havoc on the Indian people. According to the first, the public stockholding of traditional food crops will be limited to 15% of total domestic production of these crops. Currently, stockholding for rice is approximately 50%, while for wheat it is ~40% — and even that is insufficient to ensure food for every Indian household. According to the second proposal, the country which chooses to build public food stocks for domestic food security will not be allowed to export from such stock.
After the repeal of the farm laws, issues of MSP, PDS, and state purchase of crops still stand unresolved. As Indian rulers have signed their consent to WTO policies, a permanent solution to these issues will be possible only when the government withdraws their support for the WTO.
During this ongoing debate over the fair pricing of agricultural products, state purchase, and PDS, the upcoming meeting will be an important juncture when toiling masses from all over the country should demand that Indian rulers leave the WTO, free the national economic decision-making from its grip, and run the nation in the service of its own people — not multinational, imperialist companies.
We must raise a strong voice to leave the WTO during this meeting, which is taking place at a time when the ongoing farm struggle is reaching its peak. All demands of the farm struggle are ultimately associated with the WTO. The struggle to leave the WTO is also an answer to the question of whether farmers should keep agitating on economic demands alone, or should also influence the policies of the ruling class.
This is such a demand, struggling on means struggling to change the policies of the ruling class.
Struggling farmers should not miss this chance. This demand should be kept at the top of our agenda.
Pavel Kussa is from the Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), a farmer's representative organisation in India.
Photo: Ekta Parishad, Wikimedia