Saturday, November 06, 2010
Farm widows protest Obama's visit
On the eve of US President Barack Obama’s much-anticipated three-day visit to India, in a non-descript village of Vidarbha’s cotton bowl, farm widows on Friday staged a quiet candle light protest, saying that the American agriculture policies and huge subsidies were among the main reasons for their grave conditions.
Coinciding with the occasion of Laxmi Puja during the festivities of Diwali, the symbolic protest of the widows held under the aegis of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti at village Hiwra Barsa in south Yavatmal, sought to draw Obama’s attention to the plight of farmers, who, they said, bore the brunt of huge US farm subsidies.
“We do not want to spoil Obama’s visit or hurt the government’s feelings,” the VJAS convenor Kishor Tiwari said in a statement. “But when our government talks agriculture with Obama, the farmers and their families who face the outcome of their policies should not be lost sight of.” The US subsidies, he said, are killing the farmers in India.
Reports are that high on Obama’s agenda is the demand for India to open up the FDI in retail and food processing, push for the GM seeds’ adoption, reinvigorate the Indo-US knowledge initiative started in 2006 during the former president George Bush’ visit, open the market access further to the US agribusiness corporations through further cuts in the import tariffs on commodities, and push for settlement of WTO talks by the next year.
A farm widow from the village, Babytai Bais, lit a candle and led a collective prayer that was attended by the widows of the farmers who took their own lives in the region. India has seen more than 200,000 farmers’ suicides between 1997 and 2008. Maharashtra saw over 40,000 farmers’ suicides during that period, with Vidarbha being the worst hit.
In roughly the same period between 1995 and 2009, the US government paid a quarter of a trillion dollars or a staggering Rs1250000 crore in farm subsidies to its farmers.
According to the report on US federal subsidy published earlier this year by the Washington-based research organization, the Environment Working Group (EWG), the American tax payers shelled out $245.2 billion in farm subsidies during 1995-2009, which works out to an average of $15 billion or Rs75000 crore per year.