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Press Release                                                 December 2, 1999

Impressive Rally in Anjad with Hundred Bullock Carts

Hundreds of men and women from the villages in the Narmada valley took out a bullock cart rally as a mark of protest against the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and globalisation. The rally, organised by the Youth of Narmada (Rewa Ka Yuwa) in Anjad (M.P.) on Tuesday (Nov. 30) reasserted its resolve to stop the Sardar Sarovar dam in the valley, a symbol of distorted development. The people particularly opposed the adverse impacts of so called globalisation and WTO on agriculture, small industries and the rights of the people of India. The youths in the valley vowed to resist the onslaught of national-multinational capital on their life and resources.

More than 100 bullock carts and other vehicles participated in this unique rally. "The struggle in the Narmada valley has been always against the multinationals and also the World Bank. These agencies are a part of the exploitative systems and destructive development policies of this country", said Medha Patkar, while addressing the villagers. "Along with opposing these forces, we have to critically examine our own society and lives. There are urbanised, upper and middle classes who form the market for these neo-colonial forces. We have to see whether we have been giving a free way to these capitalists due to our own choices and lifestyles", she said.

The rally was organised by the peasants and youths under the banner of Rewa ke Yuwa (Youths of Narmada) against the WTO, in view of the start of the Seattle round of negotiations. The youths made it a point to oppose the Agreement on Agriculture as it would further ruin the peasants in India due to the unequal terms of trade. Jagannath Patidar, Mansaram bhai and Govindbhai Patidar narrated the outcome of the WTO and globalisation processes. "As it is, the farmers have been exploited by the market and the state. We do not get the remunerative prices for our produce. Globalisation would further ruin us by bringing in cheaper wheat, oilseeds and other agricultural produce. The politics of import of palm oil when it is not needed here reveals the danger in the WTO process. On the other hand we have to pay higher rates of electricity and fertilisers while our natural resources like land, water and forests are endangered by the multinational companies. It would encourage the agricultural products from the rich countries who can artificially scale down the price of their agricultural products by giving direct income payments to their own farmers. A handful of multinational companies control the food-grain trade in the world. Thus, the food security of our people is jeopardised. And then there are patent laws, the slashing down of the state's role in health and education, public transport etc. all of which would hit the common man and only those who can pay can avail of the necessities of life while the natural resources would be snatched away from the communities."

Sergio Oceransky of People's Global Action (PGA) against WTO and Free Trade explained the details of the Multilateral Agreement on Investment (MAI) that the powerful countries would force in the Seattle round. The proposed investment agreement would give unlimited powers to the MNCs over the national governments, would force the changes in the labour and environmental laws of the country. The governments would not be able to restrict the MNCs while these companies can take the governments to the courts if the latter puts any restrictions. The definition of the term "investment" is too vague and all encompassing, for the benefit of the investors.

The rally at Anjad was attended by hundreds of people from adjoining villages. The Narmada Bachao Andolan had declared its opposition to the WTO and globalisation. The National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), of which NBA has been an active part, has declared that it would register a nationwide protest against the Seattle round of WTO and the prospective agreements on agriculture and MAI.

The people also reiterated their resolve to oppose the resumption of the work on the Sardar Sarovar Project with all the strength. "If the work on the dam beyond 88 meters commences without the hearing of all the issues raised by the Andolan and without the review of the dam through the constitution of a new tribunal with public hearing, the `samarpit dal' (dedicated squad) of the Narmada satyagrahis would opt for the jal samrpan (sacrifice in water)", reminded Medha Patkar.

They also registered their opposition to the issuance of the notices of 95 meters in the M.P. villages. Jagannath Kaka said, "The Government of M.P. has opposed the increase in the height of the dam and demands a new tribunal to go into the Narmada water dispute in the Supreme Court. But the officials have been busy in pushing ahead the process of displacement by disbursing cash compensation in violation of NWDT and now by issuing the 95 mts. notices, when the people below have have not been yet resettled and are opposing the displacement." Dr. Sugan Baranth, who was the spirit behind the programme alongwith the youth activists like Ashish Mandloi, Deepak and others, also spoke on this ooccasion. He cautioned the farmers against genetically manipulated seeds and the intellectual property rights, which have been the outcome of the globalisation and WTO processes.

Incidentally, over 500 men and women from the Maheshwar Project affected villages in the Narmada valley demonstrated in front of the German Embassy in Delhi on November 30. They were protesting against the investment by German MNCs and banks in the destructive project and German government's support for these companies.

Sanjay Sangvai