February 02, 2020

Protest against Bolsonaro: AIKS, AIDWA, SFI hold a protest at Jantar- Mantar

PROTESTS were organised in several places of country on January 25, against the visit of Brazilian President, Jair Messias Bolsonaro, who was invited as chief guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations on January 26 by Narendra Modi government.  All India Sugarcane Farmers’ Federation (affiliated to All India Kisan Sabha) had given call for protest actions to its units. Bolsonaro is a far right-wing autocrat repressing people of Brazil who are continuously protesting against his anti- people policies.  He has adopted the pro-corporate policies and even opened the doors for the loot of the Amazon Forest by corporates’ and MNC’s at the cost of environment. Several times he has given anti-women statements; he is a misogynist. The most heinous thing done by Bolsonaro government is to complain against Indian government nominal support to Indian sugarcane farmers in World Trade Organisation.

Brazil has challenged the “support” that Indian government has given to the Sugarcane Farmers in India, alleging that it violates the rules of the WTO. Claiming that domestic support is beyond the permissible limit, Brazil, Australia and Guatemala have challenged it. India’s “Fair and Remunerative Price” (FRP) and the State Advised Price (SAP) are currently facing challenge, in addition to export subsidy measures. It claims India’s product specific domestic support for sugarcane is in excess of its de minimis entitlement of 10 per cent of value of production under WTO provisions and India has no scheduled entitlements for giving export subsidies. Brazil has claimed that India has increased its FRP from Rs 1,391.20 per tonne in 2010-11 to Rs 2,750 per tonne in 2018-19 and the SAP was also questioned. While calculating Market Price Support (MPS) in the WTO regime, the External Reference Price (ERP) is still that of (export or import prices of) years 1986-88. Such an ERP was fixed at 156.16 rupees per tonne at that time, and this is being compared with the current FRPs (Rs 2,750 per tonne) on sugarcane without accounting for inflation, whereas the deflated SMP/FRP is only around Rs 2,988 per tonne. India’s assistance of Rs 5,500 crore to support the sugar industry in 2018-19 was also a bone of contention.

The ground reality, however, contrasts this narrative. The sugarcane farmers in India are not even getting the meager prices, which ironically are termed Fair and Remunerative Prices. Cane arrears are rising and are reported to be more than Rs 24,000 crores. In the context of the prevailing farm distress, the sugarcane farmers face an uphill battle on domestic and international fronts. The skewed provisions of the Agreement on Agriculture (AoA) and the commitments under them have added to the grievance of farmers. If the WTO rules against India, the Indian government will be unable to announce FRP or steps to protect exploitation of farmers by sugar lobby. Local production will fall and we will be pushed into import of sugar. Brazil sees India as an attractive market for sugar industry and access to this market would open up a potentially large export sector for it. If India loses the dispute, it would have to modify all measures that have been found inconsistent with the AoA. In the absence of the present support policies the sugarcane sector, that employs over 50 million farmers and over 500,000 sugar mill workers (DFPD 2017), may face an imminent collapse. The Narendra Modi led BJP government instead of protecting the interests of Indian farmers is rolling the red carpet for the Brazilian president whose government is seeking to destroy the livelihoods of Indian sugarcane farmers.

News of protests has come from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar, Uttarakhand, Haryana and Punjab.  A protest was also organised at Jantar Mantar, New Delhi by AIKS, AIDWA, SFI and other organisations against the fascist Brazilian president. The protest was addressed by the All India Sugarcane Farmers’ Federation general secretary, N K Shukla, AIDWA general secretary, Mariam Dhawale, SFI general secretary, Mayukh Biswas and others. All the speakers declared it as a dishonour to our Republic to invite such anti-people, anti-democratic authoritarian president as the chief guest for Republic Day. The protesters also supported the people of Brazil who are fighting against his corrupt and repressive regime.