Kisan Adivasi Sanghatan: Sunil bhai speaks on Globalization

Interview with Sunil bhai
Activist leading fight for rights of those displaced by Tawa Dam

Translation by Ravi Kuchimanchi

Q: Bill Clinton is visiting India. Will this build good Indo-US relations?

One year back Government of India welcomed Bill Clinton. Clinton went toBangladesh on Holi and we had to engage his daughter Chelsea. She was sent to Jodhpur with Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh. The Jodhpur royal families played Holi with our foreign minister while she watched. To what extent will our government stoop, I realized during Clinton visit.3 months befor Clinton's visit there was an agreement to lift Quantitative Restrictions on 1429 items with effect from 31/3/2000 for about half theitems and 31/3/2001 for the remaining. Now India cannot restrict the import of any item -- food, agarbatti, candles -- anything.

Q: Why is the removal of Quantitative Restrictions is detrimental to India’s interests?

This decision was made by Bill Clinton and Indian Government agreed. It was not made by the Indian people. Indian parliament discussed this only after the agreement was already reached with Bill Clinton.Edible oil is one of the items on which QR was lifted in 1999. What happened? Oil from USA and Malayasia which doesn’t sell there came here. Our farmers who grow Soya, Coconut, palm suffered. Rs 20,000 crore have gone out of our country for the foreign oil that would have remained here. All the fruits and grains grown in Nimad with which you greeted us today, QR has been lifted on all those items. Hands of our government are tied now and it has given the decision making power to the USA/WTO.

Q: What power do farmer’s organizations have in these decisions?

If all of us farmers demanded that QR on Soya be reimposed, our Government cannot do it as its hands are tied. Government said not to worry, we will put import duties. On all other kinds of oil import duties were increased to 75-85% in this years budget. But not on Soya that comes mainly from USA, it remained at 45%. Why? Because WTO is binding on Soya. So Indian government’s hands are tied to details of import duties on certain items. So this is a big deal. No leader spoke against this. From April 1, cars even second hand can be imported. 186% duty on old cars but only 45% on soya oil. Why? Because MNCs like Ford, GM, Hyundai have their factories here and they lobbied. Our government fixed a high duty. But crores of farmers and adivasis cannot move the government. Because Sugar was opened up, it started coming from countries like Pakistan. Our farmers striked. Police opened fire and 2 farmers were killed at Padrona in Uttar Pradesh where they were agitating for sugar cane payment that was due to them. In another case a farmer owed Rs 2500 to government. He was severely beaten up by revenue officials and killed. On the other hand 60,000 crores of ruppees of our public sector banks is overdue as loans given to big industrialists. None of them is ever killed.

Q: How can we alleviate these problems?

This is the behaviour meted out to people under WTO system. Price of diesel and other inputs is increasing and of crop falling. Indian government says we have to compete. Rs 13 lakh anudan (subsidy) was given to American farmers for 1 year. This is not competition. It is a strategy to destroy our agriculture. Indian government has forgotten us and has made an agreement of gulami (slavery). As people we need not accept this. All basic needs can be met indigenously. If MNCs retaliate and pull out maybe we will lose out on internet and airplanes but everything else is indigenous.

Q: What about the gains that liberalization and globalization have brought to India’s economy?

More than 50% of Indian industries have closed due to liberalization-globalization. Rest are working at half the capacity. The 0.5% who work in share market earn more than all farmers put together. How many will be employed this way? We have to raise our voice against globalization and liberalization. Indian laws have been changed, like in insurance and power sector, to accommodate foreign companies. But if adivasis and farmers make a demand they are met with police force -- lathis and golis. Nimad people said they don’t want a dam and this struggle is going on for 16 years and we are beaten up. In Dewas, Adivasis have died in gunfire. In Koel Karo anti-dam struggle in Jharkhand 5-6 tribals were killed. We don’t have any alternatives today but to struggle.