Farmer unions demand disclosure of deal details, warn it will ‘ruin’ local producers

Farmers in Dairhi Village on the outskirts of Mohali in Punjab. (Express photo: Sahil Walia/File)

THE ALL India Kisan Mazdoor Sabha (AIKMS) and Bhartiya Kisan Union Ekta Dakaunda have expressed deep concern over the Centre’s move to permit massive imports of cheap agricultural and industrial products from ASEAN countries and China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea through the upcoming signing of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Participation (RCEP) free trade deal.

AIKMS has demanded that the Centre immediately publicise all details of the 21 out of 25 clauses already agreed upon in the RCEP, and the four clauses that are still under consideration, and spell out the Indian stand on the same. It also demanded that all RCEP discussions be stalled and that the country withdraw from the final signing on November 4 until details have been disclosed and views considered by due process.

AIKMS has urged all democratic and patriotic forces to rise in protest against this “betrayal of nationalist interest by the Modi government”.

President of BKU Dakaunda Buta Singh Burajgill said that the RSS-BJP government has kept all details of the deal “hidden” from the Parliament, the state government and the people, even though agriculture is a state subject.

AIKMS General Secretary Dr Ashish Mital said that it is a “secret plan” to allow free entry of cheap products from foreign countries into Indian markets and ruin local producers. “It will affect Indian agricultural produce, small and medium industries, small traders, services like health, education and transport and also allow financial investments which will suit MNCs. It will also create a legal network to enforce restrictions on Indian producers on production of MNC patented products, allowing them to sue local producers, as was done by Pepsi to potato farmers in Gujarat,” he added.

The groups said that Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has already announced reduction of taxes by half, from 30% to 15% for new investments from abroad. “The PM has been trotting the globe offering cheap land, water, forest and mineral resources, cheap and unregulated labour to foreign investors,” they added.

“Earlier, Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with ASEAN countries, Japan and South Korea, have already caused a deep loss to India and India has trade deficit with 11 of these 15 countries. It is $105 billion and is increasing. Trade deficit with South Korea is $12 billion, with Japan $7.9 billion and with China it is $53.4 billion. While the dairy sector, which provides income to crores of families is likely to suffer the most, seeds, spices, plantations, pulses, food grain, poultry, fertilisers and insecticides, chemicals, electronics, iron and steel, services, machinery, all shall be affected,” the groups’ representatives said.

The RCEP is a trade deal currently under negotiation to create an “integrated market”, making it easier for products and services of each of these countries to be available across this region.