By Kishor Kumar Kalita
Though agriculture is considered to be the mainstay of the Indian economy and more than seventy percent population of India is solely dependent on this sector, the rights of farmers have rarely been recognized in this country. Farmers, particularly the margil section, who bear the prime responsibility to feed the country, have received very little institutiol recognization and their socio-political rights still remain outside the periphery of legal enforcement. Moreover, they are historically deprived of getting the minimum rights of sustence and in their endeavor they get little support from the government mechanism. The quite visible contradiction in government policy-making is that it institutiolizes a hierarchical system of support mechanism which provides all kind of incentives, loans, subsidies and other facilities to the middle class as well as to the upper class, while the same system ignores the very basic amenities of those who ensure the country’s food security facing innumerable hurdles.
To deliberate upon the vulnerability of farmers across the world, the Intertiol Human Rights Council of the United tions had constituted an Advisory Committee. This committee was mandated under resolution 13/4 of the council to undertake a prelimiry study on ways and means to further advance the rights of people working in rural areas, including women and also smallholders engaged in the production of food and other agricultural products. The committee also took into consideration the rights of landless workers, fisher-folk, hunters and gatherers. The committee observed that like poverty, hunger is the predomint rural problem and those who produce food, suffer disproportiotely from hunger. In a world in which more than enough is produced to feed the entire world population, more than 700 million people living in rural areas continue to suffer from hunger. Describing this situation in its fil study on discrimition in the context of the right to food (A/HRC/16/40), the Advisory Committee identified peasant farmers, small landholders, landless workers, fisher-folk, hunters and gatherers as among the most discrimited-against and vulnerable groups.
The committee adopted a declaration on the rights of the peasant and the Human Right Council of the UNO discussed the issue on 24th February, 2012. The committee placed the whole study and their recommendations under the title of “Fil study of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the advancement of the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas”. In its fil study, the committee mentioned about the absence of protection mechanism of farmers both in the domestic and intertiol level. It was categorically stated in the report that the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas are not subject to any specific protection under intertiol law. However, the committee appreciated the existing intertiol human rights instrument. In particular, the Intertiol Covent on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Intertiol Covent on Civil and Political Rights got special attention in the report. Similarly the committee was also reckoning with Convention on the Elimition of All Forms of Discrimition against Women and the United tions Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples that granted a protection both to the women and indigenous people around the world. Articles 11, 12 and 13 of the Intertiol Covent on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights protecting (a) the right to food, (b) the right to adequate housing, (c) the right to health, (d) the rights to water and sanitation and (e) the right to education are also considered as the most relevant in the fil report, with regard to the protection they offer for the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas.
The conclusive part of the report says, “Smallholder farmers, landless people, tent farmers, agricultural labourers and people living from traditiol fishing, hunting and herding activities are among the most discrimited and vulnerable people in many parts of the world. Every year, thousands of peasant farmers are the victims of expropriation of land, forced evictions and displacements - a situation that is reaching an unprecedented level owing to the new phenomenon of global “land grab”. At the same time, traditiol fishing communities are increasingly threatened by the industrialization of fishing activities; people living from hunting activities by the creation of development projects; and pastoralists by conflicts with farmers over land and water resources. Altogether, these people constitute 80 per cent of the world’s hungry. Women alone represent 70 per cent of the world’s hungry; peasant women are particularly affected by hunger and poverty, largely as a result of discrimition in access to and control over productive resources, such as land, water and credit.”
To overcome this situation, the Advisory Committee has made certain recommendations that include — agrarian reforms for benefiting small-scale land holders and tenure security, formulation of pro-farmers policy by the respective government to address the needs of the most vulnerable people working in rural areas; enforcement of all intertiol human rights instruments in the local level; recognisation of land right as an essential part of intertiol human rights law etc. The Advisory Committee also firmly recommended developing a new intertiol human rights instrument on the rights of peasant and other people working in rural areas.
The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee, as a retort to all kinds of discrimition against farmers and people working in the rural areas, filly adopted “The Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas”. This declaration has incorporated many important rights among which some emerged in the context of fincial volatility and globalization. Article 1 of the declaration defines a peasant as a man or woman of the land, who has a direct and special relationship with the land and ture through the production of food or other agricultural products. Article 2 prescribes a series of rights of the farmers including the right to participate in the policy design, decision making, implementation, and monitoring of any project, program or policy affecting their land and territories. The article implicitly mentions about the farmer’s right to food sovereignty, which comprises the right to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustaible methods, and the right to define their own food and agriculture systems. The declaration brace of a number of commendable rights such as - Right to life and to an adequate standard of living (article-3); Right to land and territory (Article-4); Right to seeds and traditiol agricultural knowledge and practice (Article-5); Right to means of agricultural production (Article-6); Right to information (Article-7); Freedom to determine price and market for agricultural production (Article-8); Right to the protection of agricultural values (Article-9); Right to have access to justice (Article-13) etc.
The question is, even after ratification of these intertiol conventions by the Indian government, has the government shown any sincere indications to implement such mandate? Obviously the answer would be in the negative. In an era of corporatization, where the government is forcibly withdrawing all welfare measures for farmers and adopting diabolical anti-farmer policies and laws — anticipation of an affirmative action from the government side is quite absurd. In such a despondent situation, the farmer organizations and political parties should come forward to put pressure on the present government for implementing the clauses of the said declaration.