Globalisation is likely to have serious implications for Indian agriculture. India signed the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade [GATT] at Maracas in 1994 and became part of the World Trade Organisation [WTO]. As part of the GATT agreement developing countries including India are under obligation to introduce reduction in subsidies and keep it to the 10 per cent of farmers’ value output. But cutting down on subsidies does not seem to be practical because of strong resistance of the farmers’ lobby.
India together with other countries of the third world has accused the WTO of following discriminatory practices because the developed countries continue to give subsidies while they continue to pressurise the developing countries to cut subsidies. Another GATT-related problem affecting the interest of the farmers is introduction of patenting in agriculture.
farmer is not automatically permitted to use seeds of the protected varieties which he saved for sowing next crop. He has either to pay compensation for the use of the seeds saved by him or to obtain permission of the breeder. As most of the plant breeders are Multi-National Corporations and their main motive is profit the only option left with the farmers is to buy the seeds again. Farmers in Karnataka had registered their protest against this arrangement by attacking the farm of Car gill seeds, a Multi-National Seed Company. The farmers have been joined by the NGOs in their protest against the seed companies. Liberalising agricultural sector seems to be more contentious. A jump in food prices appears to be an inevitable outcome of liberalisation. This fear has a solid basis. The international prices of food grains are higher than domestic prices.
Any rise in food prices would hit the poor hardly. This would make the government of the day immensely unpopular and might seriously jeopardise the electoral fortunes of the ruling party. Overall the response of the Rich Farmers Movement towards the New Economic Policy and India joining the WTO has not been undifferentiated. Sharad Joshi an important leader of farmers in the western part of the country has welcomed the new development.
He expects opportunities for farmers in the phase of liberalisation. At the same time Mahender Singh Tikait in the north and Nanjundaswamy in the south are apprehensive of negative fallouts of liberalisation on the agricultural sector. Economic reforms in agricultural sector have not met any serious protest because a section of rich farmers is
finding new investment opportunities in agro-based industries like sugar, rice mills, food processing, floriculture and horticulture. In the 1990s India has increased its exports of both fresh and processed fruits and vegetables.
As China has joined the WTO and is deepening its engagement with globalisation the biggest risk for India may be being left behind. It would mean losing out on opportunities offered by globalisation. Some people argue that the farmers’ be watchful movements should not oppose globalisation. While it is always good against negative fallouts of globalisation at the same time Indian farmers should ensure that they benefit from the opportunities offered by Globalisation.