DECLARATION OF 3RD KISAN SWARAJ SAMMELAN
Hyderabad, April 3rd 2016
INCOME GUARANTEE, RIGHTS OVER RESOURCES & SUSTAINABILITY IN AGRICULTURE
We, the delegates of the 3rd Kisan Swaraj Sammelan in Hyderabad during April 1st to 3rd 2016, belonging to numerous people’s movements, farmers’ unions, farmers’ cooperatives, non-governmental organisations and national/regional/state level alliances working on farming related issues, have come together at a time when Indian farming is reeling under severe distress as manifested in unabated farm suicides, increasing debt burden, large displacement of cultivators and serious depletion of groundwater, soil health and biodiversity.
With a strong belief that without protecting and promoting sustainable farm livelihoods as opposed to the increasing corporatization being supported and promoted, the nation’s food security will be threatened, and given that Constitutional commitments to Right to Life and Right to Equality cannot be fulfilled without addressing fundamental concerns relating to farmers, we declare the following:
- Income Guarantee: We demand a comprehensive Farmers’ Income Guarantee Act which assures an income level that achieves dignified living for every agricultural household including tenant farmers, sharecroppers and agricultural workers. In its Budget Speech, the government announced that it will work towards income security for farmers, but its promise of doubling farm incomes by 2022 is hollow and inadequate. We demand that along the lines of the 7th Pay Commission, a permanent Farmers’ Income Commission be put in place to ensure parity of incomes in Indian society. All government policies that impact agriculture – including support prices, marketing, credit, disaster relief and insurance, subsidies, trade and export-import policies – should translate into ensuring incomes for dignified living and sustainability in farming.
- Relief and Insurance against Natural Calamities: As more than half of the country is reeling under consecutive years of drought and other natural disasters, highest priority should be given to ensure that farmers don’t fall into extreme distress and debt at times of such natural calamities. The Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana fails to address serious faults in the crop insurance system. We demand a comprehensive revamp of the Bima Yojana along the lines demanded by farmer unions (such as making individual farms as assessment units, covering all risks including wild animal attacks, stopping corporatization of this sector and ensuring that all cultivators including sharecroppers/tenants are brought under the scheme), and a timely disaster relief system that comprehensively covers the loss incurred. There should be an automatic re-scheduling of bank loans. It is important to institute systems that also compensate agricultural workers for the impacts they suffer. In view of drastic climate change, disaster proofing, preparedness and diversity-based low-external input climate-resilient ecological agriculture should receive highest-priority.
- Land Rights and Acquisition: The widespread land grab in the name of infrastructure and industry, running into crores of acres across the country, forms the biggest threat to agriculture and farm livelihoods and Adivasis are the worst affected. This needs to be stopped immediately. We demand that Land Acquisition Act 2013 be amended to address serious shortcomings that exist – primacy of prior informed consent of Gram Sabhas should be upheld in all cases. We oppose the dilution in rules and bypassing of the 2013 Act through Government Orders and methods such as Land Pooling. Rather than creating land banks to give land to the corporates, land should be given to landless cultivators which is a bigger “public purpose” and government should ensure that land that has not been put to use for the stated purpose should be returned to the original landowners. Further, no land acquisition should take place from assigned landholders. We demand a comprehensive Land Use policy, statutorily embedded, that prevents and stops diversion of agricultural land and commons that form the basis of millions of livelihoods, to non-agricultural purposes.
- Tenant Farmers’ Rights and Recognition of Actual Cultivators: Tenant farmers, sharecroppers and women farmers are the worst affected in the agrarian crisis because they are left out of all the government support systems including low-interest bank loans, disaster relief, crop insurance, marketing systems, subsidies etc. There should be a comprehensive system of formally recording and recognizing the real cultivators including tenant farmers, sharecroppers and women farmers, so that they are entitled to get the benefit of all government support systems and schemes.
- Seed Sovereignty: Farmers’ seed sovereignty is a critical aspect of livelihood and food/nutrition security. While we welcome the recent order restricting the prices of Bt cotton seed, we demand that royalties on seed be completely abolished even if it means that MNCs leave India. We oppose Intellectual Property Rights on seed, and the fact that India has embedded Farmers’ Rights in an IPR law. We demand that seed diversity be revived in farmers’ fields. The Seeds Bill should be enacted incorporating all necessary provisions that will protect farmers’ interests.
- Hazardous technologies like Pesticides & GMOs: An important reason for agrarian distress is the use of hazardous and unsustainable farm technologies like chemical pesticides including herbicides, fertilisers and Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) in the guise of modern agriculture, ignoring post-modern science of agro-ecology which provides greater viability and sustainability in agriculture. Introducing Green Revolution paradigm in Eastern India is unacceptable to us, and BGREI investments should be diverted to promotion of ecological agriculture. We demand that the government phase out agri-chemicals in a time bound commitment, and stop any environmental release of GMOs. The government should put an immediate halt to the processing of the application for commercialization of GM mustard.
- Women Farmers’ Rights: Women farmers have been rendered invisible and unsupported despite performing 70% of work in Indian agriculture, and despite evidence that when treated on part with male farmers, women’s farming will improve production by upto 40%. We demand that governments recognize them as farmers in their own right, secure their rights over resources both individual and commons, entitle them to agricultural services on par with male farmers, provide comprehensive social protection, ensure equal wages and guarantee equal space for women farmers in all decision-making bodies related to agriculture.
- Ecological Agriculture: Ecological agriculture is no longer a choice but an imperative, given the damage to environment and health across India. There is also an economic and social imperative for decisively shifting towards such farming. We welcome recent positive initiatives by some governments in this respect but they should go beyond treating organic farming as yet another scheme, that too with meager investments. We demand that agro-ecological approaches be mainstreamed into Indian agriculture in its agriculture education, research, extension and marketing support systems. All states should adopt organic farming policies with public consultation in a time bound manner, to enable large investments to support production and marketing of organic produce, as well as instituting incentives like Ecosystems Services payment to ecological farmers. Organic produce should be channeled into various food schemes of the governments in a localized fashion.
- Water Conservation: Water is a critical input that is getting fast-depleted and polluted all over India. We demand concrete measures for water conservation, and preventing the resource from being privatized. Water-intensive crops should be de-prioritised and any diversion of water to industry at the expense of agriculture should be stopped.
- Adivasi Agriculture: We demand that the Forest Rights Act should be implemented fully and effectively with particular emphasis on community rights. Respecting the importance of Adivasi knowledge, diversity and way of life, interventions in agriculture should be re-oriented towards reviving the earlier continuum between Nature-Agriculture-Community-Culture. Food security and forest policies should recognize and support the fact that forests are important food producing habitats for these communities.
- Free Trade Agreements and WTO: International trade policies and agreements are heavily rigged and tilted against the interests of our farmers. We demand that India’s ratification and positioning in various negotiations cannot happen without widespread consultations with farmers, and should in no way compromise food and livelihood security, and should prioritise farmers’ interests in decisions taken related to export-import policies. We demand that until India finds a permanent solution to our ‘food stockpiling’ issue in the WTO which is also directly connected to MSPs and procurement support offered to farmers, the government should not move forward on negotiations on any other issues. We demand that the government stop signing any new Free Trade Agreements, and review all FTAs and BITs until now, to assess how farmers have been affected. India should force a review of TRIPS Agreement to ensure that livelihood and trade security is not compromised in the name of IPRs.
- Support to farmers’ organisations: Based on principles of cooperation and aggregation at the community level, adequate support should be provided to organizing farmers into Farmer Producer Organisations. Such organisations should be supported with land as well as appropriate support for setting up agro-based industries and enterprises at the village level, and tax exemptions should be provided to these collectives.
- Relief and Rehabilitation for Farm Suicide Families: Addressing the relief and rehabilitation needs in farm suicide families has to be taken up by governments promptly and comprehensively.
We also hereby announce that to achieve the above, through peaceful and democratic means, we would all work in a coordinated fashion by evolving common plans and strategies, even as we take up actions through various organizational platforms. Creation of informed debates and decentralized action would form a core of future action. We will hold governments accountable towards upholding Constitutional commitments as they pertain to Indian farmers. We recognize and appreciate that many urban Indians are seriously concerned about their food safety and diversity as well as farm livelihoods. We give a call not only to the farmers of the nation but all citizens to join the struggle to take forward the agenda of food and livelihood security and sovereignty of Indian farmers.
KISAN SWARAJ SAMMELAN PARTICIPANTS INCLUDE:
- Ms Medha Patkar, National Alliance for People’s Movements (NAPM)
- Dr Devinder Sharma, Kisan Ekta
- Prof Yogendra Yadav, Jai Kisan Andolan
- Dr K Sunilam, Bhoomi Adhikar Sangharsh
- Dr Vijoo Krishnan, All India Kisan Sabha
- Dr V Rukmini Rao, Mahila Kisan Adhikaar Manch
- Prof Kodandaram, Telangana Raithu JAC
- Shri Ajayvir Jakhar, Bharat Krishak Samaj
- Shri Chamarasa Patil, Karnataka Rajya Raitha Sangha
- Shri Rampal Jat, Kisan Mahapanchayat
- Shri Lingaraj Pradhan, Paschim Odisha Krishak Sanghatan
- Shri Nallagounder, Tamizhaga Vyavasayigal Sangam
- Shri Vadde Sobhaneedreeswara Rao, former Agriculture Minister, Andhra Pradesh
- Shri Benny Antony, Haritha Sena
- Shri Prafulbhai Senjalia, Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Gujarat
- Shri Subhash Sharma and Dr Claude Alvares, OFAI
- Shri P S Ajay Kumar, AP Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union
- Shri Achutaramaiah, All India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha
- Shri Kiran Vissa, Dr G V Ramanjaneyulu, Ms Ashalatha & Shri Ravi Kanneganti, Rythu Swarajya Vedika
- Ms Kavitha Kuruganti and Shri Kapil Shah, Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA)
 We adopt an expansive definition of Farmers as embedded in the National Policy for Farmers 2007, and we adopt a more specific focus on the most marginalized amongst Indian farmers, including agricultural workers, women farmers etc. Additionally, we also adopt an approach that recognizes farmers as highly skilled.