New Delhi: As India enters a crucial conclusive phase of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) pact, which can overhaul farm economy, farmers and affiliated organisations are upping their ante against the agreement, urging the Indian government not to sign it. In their latest effort, the All India Kisan Sabha has announced a nationwide protest on November 4.
Speaking to NewsClick, Sanjay Parate, President of AIKS, Chhattisgarh, said: “We are launching a nationwide offensive with the AIKS and other organisations conducting strikes, demonstrations and effigy burning against the proposed agreement. We want to take the protests further to the villages to amplify the voices of farmers.”
Farmers unions have been staging coordinated protests across over 50 places in the country demanding that the Central government keep agriculture produce and dairy sector out of the purview of the RCEP pact, a trade deal involving India and 15 other nations in the Asia Pacific.
Also read: RCEP: As Deadline Looms, Trade Unions Call Out Dangerous Causes
The latest round of protest comes in the backdrop of protests in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Kerala.
Speaking to NewsClick, Kavita Kuruganti of the Alliance for Sustainable & Holistic Agriculture (ASHA), said, “In more than 75 districts protests against RCEP was organised on October 24-25. Today (Monday), the Kerala government itself is organising a protest. Many states likewise are protesting,” adding that if RCEP is signed, Indian farmers will have to contend with cheaper produce coming in from other countries.
She said: “In any case we are currently witnessing a trade deficit, but in other sectors also, when the cheaper imports will come in we will have no mechanism to stop this even in quantitative terms or by imposing trade duties. The farmers here will not be able to recover the cost of production, it will have adverse effects on the family, making it a bleak situation.”
Kuruganti cautioned that the direct impact of RCEP would be on India’s dairy and plantation sectors, as also on wheat and even cotton production.
Also read: India’s RCEP Dilemma: Is There a Way Out?
In a common memorandum to Union Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal, with copies marked to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, farmer organisations have listed the implications if India goes ahead with the RCEP negotiations. “There are no benefits apparent at all for Indian farmers while on the other hand, they will be severely affected by dumping of heavily subsidised products, with nearly no tariff barriers possible and no other protection mechanisms either,” the memorandum said.
Members of ASHA, Bharatiya Kisan Union and the Indian Coordination Committee of Farmers Movement have urged state governments to oppose any proposals in the RCEP that might affect farmers.
NewsClick has previously reported as to how the current economic downturn and its concomitant job losses across sectors were valid reasons to go slow on trade integration, there are other more fundamental underlying reasons for developing countrie,s such as India to eschew RCEP and the path of free trade. Like most new generation free trade agreements, RCEP rules go well beyond national borders and aim at deep integration and harmonisation of rules in sectors ranging from agriculture, manufacturing, intellectual property, investment, competition and electronic commerce. For India, this is deeply problematic in sectors such as agriculture which, despite being in the throes of a deep crisis, continue to provide employment to nearly half the country’s workforce.