Ex-IFS officers back farm laws

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New Delhi, Feb 4 (PTI) A group of former IFS officers on Thursday questioned the voices from developed countries in support of farmers' protest, saying they want India to liberalise its agriculture market on the one hand and on the other political groups and legislators from these places are backing the agitation and criticising the government for laws that empower tillers and bring in greater market efficiency.

'Obviously, you cannot have your cake and eat it too. The balance between market forces and food security/famers' welfare is a delicate one and it is the sovereign prerogative of governments to strike that balance,' the group of former Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers said in a statement.

The 20 signatories to the statement included Ajay Swarup, Mohan Kumar, Vishnu Prakash and J S Sapra.

They said in the post-COVID future of sustainable agriculture and food security, there is an opportunity for the US, the European Union and the UK along with 19 members of the Cairns Group to end the double standards that have skewed global production and markets. Cairns Group is a coalition of agriculture produce exporting nations.

The former IFS officers also criticised various aspects of the World Trade Organisation agreement on agriculture, saying it was born out of a bilateral deal between the two biggest subsidy-providers in farming, the US and the EU, in 1992.

The WTO agreement on agriculture is characterised by democratic deficit and based on commercial realpolitik, they added.

'India will gradually and incrementally allow the market to decide prices of agricultural produce, not because of the WTO or because the developed countries are saying so, but because it is in the fundamental interest of the Indian farmers and will enable the latter to double their income,' the statement said.

The WTO under the leadership of developed countries will be failing in its duty if it does not amend the agreement on agriculture that facilitates the developing and least-developed members to achieve the sustainable development goal of ending hunger and securing food security, it added.

Sustainable agriculture demands that farmers adopt the latest technology to diversify their production, and the farm laws passed by the government is a step in this direction, the former IFS officers said, while backing India's provision of minimum support price, something criticised by developed countries as an unfair practice.

'Developed countries led by the US, EU and the Cairns Group have an opportunity to be on the right side of history here. They must support the efforts of developing and least developed countries even while agreeing to amend the WTO Agreement on Agriculture to accommodate the legitimate demands of the developing and the least developed countries,' they said in the statement.

The former IFS officers’ statement has come after several international personalities, including celebrities, activists and law-makers, have supported the ongoing farmer unions’ agitation near Delhi against the three farm laws and criticised the government's decision to cut off internet in the affected areas. PTI KR AQS AQS