WTO subsidy policy bad for farmers, says leader Sarwan Singh Pandher ahead of nationwide tractor march

Shambhu Border: Ahead of the launch of a nationwide tractor procession on highways to press for their demands, farmer leader Sarwan Singh Pandher, General Secretary of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, reiterated the legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price (MSP) demands from the government, stating that the government of India should take India out of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

He said that the policy of the WTO is “very bad for farmers.”

Farmers under the banner of Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM) are all set to launch a nationwide tractor procession on highways on Monday.

Speaking on the WTO’s criteria of subsidy, Sarwan Singh Pandher said, “The policy of the WTO is very bad for farmers. The WTO does not give rights to the farmers, the way they do it. Now that America is giving a subsidy of USD 8500 annually to its farmers in the green box, our subsidy is Rs 258 now. Look, there can be no competition between the two. The Government should take India out of the WTO; unless you take it out, this thing is not going to happen.”

A subsidy is an incentive given by the government to individuals or businesses in the form of cash, grants, or tax breaks that improve the supply of certain goods and services. In the WTO agreement, subsidies in general are identified by “boxes” which are given the colours of traffic lights: green (permitted), amber (slow down — i.e. need to be reduced), red (forbidden).

Article 6 of the Agriculture Agreement of the WTO defines all domestic supports except those in the blue and green boxes. These supports are subject to limits as they cause trade distortion and have environmental impacts. “De minimis” minimal supports for both product-specific and non-product-specific support are allowed, defined as a share of the value of agricultural production. This threshold is generally 5 per cent of the value of agricultural production for developed countries, and 10% for most developing countries, although some WTO members agreed to a different level when they negotiated to join the WTO.

“Whatever price the government announces as MSP, this is the first demand. In that, we will make a guarantee legal law and fix it. After that, we will talk about fixing the prices of crops according to the formula of C2 50 per cent given by the Dr Swaminathan committee,” Pandher added.

Sarwan Singh Pandher also explained about their protest, and said, “Yesterday, a seminar was held on WTO policies. Today, the WTO’s bier and effigy will be burned.”

Regarding the question of SKM’s tractor call on Delhi borders, Sarwan Singh Pandher said, “We are holding our protest on our borders. Other farmer leaders are also expressing their protest in different ways. We say that many farmers and farmer leaders also left their egos and came with us.”

When asked about the talks with the government, he said, “Invitations for talks with the government are never sent from our side. The invitation was sent by the government itself. We are hoping that the invitation will come soon and things will be resolved. I am saying that even today, restore normalcy, and create a good environment for talks. Someone ran away from talks, and now it is the government’s wish.”

“What kind of environment have they created to come forward? We hope that the Prime Minister himself will come forward and give a statement that we will make the MSP Legal Guarantee Law, and all the deadlock will be resolved and the matter will move forward on this front. If a good solution is found, then it is up to the government,” he said.

Giving a call to march to Delhi, the farmers have been massing and camping at multiple points in areas bordering the national capital since February 13 along with their tractors, mini-vans, and pickup trucks, demanding, among others, a law guaranteeing MSP (minimum support price) and withdrawal of police cases against farmers during earlier protests.

During the last round of talks, which ended past midnight on February 18, the panel of three Union ministers made an offer to buy five crops — moong dal, urad dal, tur dal, maize, and cotton — from farmers at MSP for five years through central agencies.

However, the protesting farmers turned down the demand and returned to their protest sites. (ANI)



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