Tag Archives: Trans-Pacific Partnership

Modi’s Farm Reforms will free the farmers from the clutches of middlemen and a corrupt system

Lalit Shastri

Photo by Maria Orlova on Pexels.com

The ongoing agitation, mainly by farmers from Punjab, Haryana and Delhi, against the new farm laws introduced by the Modi led NDA Government at the Centre to free the farmers from the clutches of middlemen and to ensure they get the best price for their produce through a free market, was obviously ignited and is being fuelled by politics rather than real concerns for the benefit and welfare of farmers as maximum number of farmers who have joined the agitation are from Punjab, where Congress is now in power and the main Opposition party, the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) has also quit the BJP led ruling National Democratic Alliance.

The allegation against the opposition parties opposing the farm reforms is that they were the real beneficiary as their leaders and their henchmen and cadres were pocketing the major part of the booty that was being generated by the alleged siphoning away of thousands of crores from money being spent by the government on procurement of farm produce under the minimum support price (MSP) regime and rampant corruption at the mandis (regulated agriculture produce market yards) where the farmers were mandated to sell their produce.

Harsimrat Kaur Badal of SDA was the first to lodge protest against the farm reforms by quitting the Cabinet.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah has held talks with the agitating farmers. Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar who has also held several round of talks with the farmers’ representatives has even written a letter to the striking farmers, who have partially blocked several highways connecting Delhi with neighbouring States. The Supreme Court, has deferred a plea seeking removal of the road blockade by the farmers. In the meanwhile, Delhi Chief Minister joined the protest by tearing copies of the new farm laws in the Delhi Assembly.

The farm reforms introduced by the Modi Government at the centre are related to three agricultural Bills that were passed by the Parliament on 27 September 2020 and have been approved by President Ram Nath Kovind. Together the these Acts seek to provide farmers with multiple marketing channels and a legal framework for contract farming beside other things. 

Along with the need to benefit the farmers, the reforms were also necessary if India wants to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and other Free Trade Zones that require Farm and Agriculture subsidiaries’ visibility.

The three farm laws being contested by a section of farmers are:

  • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and
  • The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 

Is the agitation by farmers justified?

The concept of a agriculture produce market regulation programme in India dates back to the British days when the British were more concerned about ensuring raw cotton reaches the textile producers at Manchester (in UK) at low rates. Consequently in 1886, the first regulated market was established at Karanja in 1886 under the Hyderabad Residency Order (legislation – the Berar Cotton and Grain Market Act of 1887). Then came the recommendation of the Royal Commission on Agriculture for regulation of marketing practices and establishment of regulated markets in 1928.

Post-Independence, it was during the decades of the 60s and 70s of the 20th Century that the organized agricultural marketing was systematised and mandated through government regulated markets and mandis. Most states thereafter began enacting and enforcing the Agricultural Produce Markets Regulation (APMR) Acts.

Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC) is a marketing board established under APMR.

Agricultural Markets in most parts of the Country were established and regulated under the State APMC Acts.

Before the Modi government came up with tbe farm reforms, the first sale of agriculture produce could occur only at the mandis of APMC. The new Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act allows farmers to sell outside APMC mandis where only those registered under the APMC Act are allowed to buy agricultural produce. These registered persons or commission agents, who have maintained a vice-like grip on the market, are called “Aadhatiya” in the native jargon.

It is common knowledge how the trader-aadhatiya-government officer nexus has been looting and exploiting the farmers. The new farm reform is mainly aimed at freeing the farmers from the present corrupt system and allowing them to take full advantage of free market driven economy.

When the farmer brings his produce to the mandi, the buyers i.e. the middlemen get together and buy the farmer’s crop at a very low price. The produce then reaches the consumer at a very high price.

The farmer, who is the loser at the Mandi and at the hands of the corrupt cartel that operates it, also is required to shell out money to pay several taxes and commission under the APMC Act. For example, the farmer who sells his crop at the “Krishi Upaj Mandi” pays something like 3% as market fees,3 % rural development cess and 2.5% commission (the taxes vary across states), beside labour and transportation charges. The farmers also have to account for about 10% wastage and often face the menace of crop theft. Short or under weighing is also common in mandis. At times the crop keeps lying and is not sold for several days, while the farmer is left at the mercy of the officers and middlemen who dictate the price for produce like vegetables that are not covered under MSP. The farmers also were not allowed to take their crop to mandis outside their own State

The APMC Act applies to all agricultural produce whether it is vegetables, fruits or grains. Now take for example a farmer in Madhya Pradesh would be selling onion at Rs 2 or 4 a kg and it would reach the consumer at 10 times the price at which the middlemen procure it at the first point of sale. Similarly, in Himachal Pradesh, apple would be selling for Rs 10 rupees per kg but the consumer would get it at Rs 100 per kg or at a much higher price. So the crux of the problem is that the profit in between gets pocketed by a handful of people.

Under the new farm laws, the farmers can sell their crop both outside the mandi to any person having the PAN card and also at the mandi. The farmers would stand to gain additionally if they sell outside the mandi as they would not be required to pay the mandi tax in that case.

Under the new regime, farmer also will be free to do contract farming. Contrary to widespread fear and baseless speculation, the MSP system will remain intact and the Mandis will continue to function. The major benefit being offered to the farmer under the new regime is that it will not be mandatory for the farmers to sell their produce at the mandi.

Download Brief History of Marketing Regulation

Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar writes to farmers

Neither will I eat nor will I let others eat: Narendra Modi

Addressing a rally at Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir in 2014, Prime Minister Modi had said, “Na khaoonga, na khane dunga” (neither will I eat nor will I let others eat). The PM is living up to his words and the Farm Sector Reform initiated by his Government amply validates this. Besides, ensuring farmers get their due in terms of profit on their produce, the new farm laws will also go a long way towards eliminating corruption. To drive home the point, I would like to reproduce an investigative news story I had done 12-years ago to expose huge corruption in procurement at the Krishi Upaj Mandi.

Exclusive story published on 24 May 2008

Large-scale corruption in procurement; Civil Supplies Minister seeks action against the corrupt

Official reports, including one sent to the Chief Minister’s Secretariat by the District Collector of Hoshangabad on April 4, reveal massive corruption and mismanagement of the wheat procurement process in Madhya Pradesh.

Food and Civil Supplies Minister Akhand Pratap Singh’s recent initiative of handing over the public distribution system (PDS) outlets to rural panchayats in order to “free the system from the clutches of black-marketeers and middlemen” has also come in for sharp criticism within the ruling party.

Red wheat
The Minister revealed that even sub-standard red wheat that was being sold at the subsidised rate of Rs.8.50 per kg through the PDS outlets was being siphoned away for sale in the open market. Now when the Mukhya Mantri Annapurna Yojna was being implemented in the State for distributing foodgrains at highly subsidised rates, it would be more profitable for the black-marketeers to further exploit the system, he pointed out.

Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also noticed large-scale irregularities during a surprise inspection of the Krishi Upaj Mandi at Itarsi on April 18 and directed the district Collector to submit a report about procurement of wheat at the official support support price.

The Collector, G. P. Tiwari, confirmed irregularities and pointed out in his report that of the 499,991 quintal of wheat procured by the Itarsi Mandi between March 1 and April 17 this year, only 187,620 quintals had been purchased at support price, while 2,225,380 quintal of wheat was purchased below procurement price and the bonus of Rs.100 above the procurement price, announced by the State Government, was paid to procure only 86,991 quintal of wheat. There were four government agencies involved in the procurement process: the State Civil Supplies Corporation, the Food Corporation of India, the Marketing Federation and NAFED.

The Collector pointed out in his report that it had been established that the wheat was wrongly declared as unfit for procurement by official agencies. The same pattern was noticed in Bankhedi, Piparia, Sohagpur and Semriharchand mandis, according to the Collector. He also underscored the need for a strict vigil to ensure that the wheat purchased from farmers by traders was not brought back to the mandi to be sold at the official procurement price.

The Collector also placed on record that there was a shortage of storage space in the mandi as railway rakes were not available between April 10 and 16 to transport wheat.

Complaints
Earlier, the Minister for Food and Civil Supplies had raised the issue of irregularities in management of wheat procurement. Responding to allegations of large-scale irregularities as well as complaints that farmers were neither getting support price nor immediate payment for the purchase of their wheat, he had asked the State Secretary/Commissioner Food and Civil Supplies to furnish information regarding wheat procurement and also directed him on April 15, three
days before the Chief Minister’s surprise visit to Itarsi to resolve various issues linked with wheat procurement, its storage and transportation.

TPP will increase exports of Made in America products

Newsroom24x7 Staff

Made in USA0Washington DC: The U.S. International Trade Commission report finds that the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) will increase exports of the world-class, Made-in-America products and services offered by American companies, and improve the Gross Domestic Product of USA.
U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker, in a statement on the release of the U.S. International Trade Commission report on the potential economic impact of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) said on Wednesday that the report confirms the positive impact that the Trans-Pacific Partnership will have on U.S. businesses, workers, and families.

The TPP will expand access to the more than 500 million consumers that reside in some of the world’s fastest-growing markets and provide a level playing field for U.S. businesses and workers to contend with their global competitors.

The Department of Commerce continues to provide data that demonstrates the potential impact TPP can have on individual states and industry sectors. We remain committed to being a long-term partner for U.S. businesses of all sizes to help them seize the economic opportunity as TPP is passed and implemented.”

Since 2009, U.S. goods exports to TPP countries have increased by 59 percent, while services exports to these markets have expanded 35 percent. TPP markets accounted for 45 percent of total U.S. goods exports in 2014, and 43 percent of all U.S. jobs supported by goods exports can be attributed to these countries.

Japan’s Abe to US Congress: Let us bring the TPP to a successful conclusion through our joint leadership

Newsroom24x7 Desk

Japanese prime Minister Shinzo Abe (representative photo)
Japanese prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivering a speech at Harvard Kennedy School

Washington DC: Shinzo Abe, the first Japanese Prime Minister ever to address the joint meeting of the US Congress on Wednesday said as for U.S. – Japan negotiations, the goal is near. Let us bring the TPP to a successful conclusion through our joint leadership.

Zooming in on the entire concept of Trans-Pacific Partnership, Abe said; “prosperity was fostered first by the U.S., and second by Japan. And prosperity is nothing less than the seedbed for peace.

Involving countries in Asia-Pacific whose backgrounds vary, the U.S. and Japan must take the lead. We must take the lead to build a market that is fair, dynamic, sustainable, and is also free from the arbitrary intentions of any nation.

In the Pacific market, we cannot overlook sweat shops or burdens on the environment. Nor can we simply allow free riders on intellectual property.

No. Instead, we can spread our shared values around the world and have them take root: the rule of law, democracy, and freedom.

That is exactly what the TPP is all about.

Furthermore, the TPP goes far beyond just economic benefits. It is also about our security. Long-term, its strategic value is awesome. We should never forget that.

The TPP covers an area that accounts for 40 per cent of the world economy, and one third of global trade. We must turn the area into a region for lasting peace and prosperity.

That is for the sake of our children and our children’s children.

As for U.S. – Japan negotiations, the goal is near. Let us bring the TPP to a successful conclusion through our joint leadership.”

Reflecting on the post-World War II phase, Abe said About the post-war phase, Abe said: “70 years ago, Japan had been reduced to ashes.

Then came each and every month from the citizens of the United States gifts to Japan like milk for our children and warm sweaters, and even goats. Yes, from America, 2,036 goats came to Japan.

And it was Japan that received the biggest benefit from the very beginning by the post-war economic system that the U.S. had fostered by opening up its own market and calling for a liberal world economy.

Later on, from the 1980’s, we saw the rise of the Republic of Korea, Taiwan, the ASEAN countries, and before long, China as well.

This time, Japan too devotedly poured in capital and technologies to support their growths.

Meanwhile in the U.S., Japan created more employment than any other foreign nation but one, coming second only to the U.K.”

Abe, who studied in California and also took a job at a steelmaker said the American culture has ‘intoxicated’ him. “in the U.S. rank and hierarchy are neither here nor there. People advance based on merit. When you discuss things you don’t pay much attention to who is junior or senior. You just choose the best idea, no matter who the idea was from”, the Japanese Prime Minister observed.

Eulogising the American example, Abe said: “The son of a farmer-carpenter can become the President… The fact that such a country existed woke up the Japanese of the late 19th century to democracy.”

Focusing on the World War II Memorial that he visited, Abe said” “It was a place of peace and calm that struck me as a sanctuary. The air was filled with the sound of water breaking in the fountains. In one corner stands the Freedom Wall. More than 4,000 gold stars shine on the wall. I gasped with surprise to hear that each star represents the lives of 100 fallen soldiers.”

Expressing deep repentance, Abe said: “The battles engraved at the Memorial crossed my mind, and I reflected upon the lost dreams and lost futures of those young Americans.

History is harsh. What is done cannot be undone.

With deep repentance in my heart, I stood there in silent prayers for some time.

My dear friends, on behalf of Japan and the Japanese people, I offer with profound respect my eternal condolences to the souls of all American people that were lost during World War II.”

Drawing attention to Lt. Gen. Lawrence Snowden in the gallery, Abe said, Seventy years ago in February, he had landed on Iōtō, or the island of Iwo Jima, as a captain in command of a company. In recent years, General Snowden has often participated in the memorial services held jointly by Japan and the U.S. on Iōtō. Next to General. Snowden sits Diet Member Yoshitaka Shindo, who is a former member of my Cabinet. His grandfather, General Tadamichi Kuribayashi, whose valor we remember even today, was the commander of the Japanese garrison during the Battle of Iwo Jima.

The Japanese Prime Minister went on to observe: “What should we call this, if not a miracle of history? Enemies that had fought each other so fiercely have become friends bonded in spirit.”


Source: Citation from Official Website of the Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet (http://japan.kantei.go.jp/97_abe/statement/201504/uscongress.html).

 

Obama’s National Security Strategy: blueprint for a decisive US leadership

Newsroom24x7 Desk

President Barack Obama confers with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice at Konstantinovsky Palace during the G20 Summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia. September 6, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama confers with National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice at Konstantinovsky Palace during the G20 Summit in Saint Petersburg, Russia. September 6, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Washington DC, Feb. 7: US will advance its security and that of its citizens, and U.S. allies and partners by maintaining a national defense that is the best trained, equipped, and led force in the world and by reinforcing its homeland security to protect Americans from terrorist attacks and natural hazards; striving for a world without nuclear weapons and ensuring nuclear materials don’t fall into the wrong hands; and developing a global capacity to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to biological threats like Ebola through the Global Health Security Agenda.

These are the 4-key ways defined by the US President’s National Security Strategy (NSS), which has been projected as the blueprint for “America’s leadership in the world — how that country would address global challenges while advancing its “interest, values, and vision for the future.”

The US President’s National Security Advisor Susan Rice Friday outlined America’s National Security Strategy in 2015 at the Brookings Institution — She said that it lays out what needs to get done in the near-term to secure America for the long-term.

Releasing the new NSS, Rice said America’s resurgence is now real –she said, a strong and sustainable American leadership is key to building greater peace and prosperity throughout the world

Rice said strong and sustained American leadership remains essential, as ever. Think for a minute where the world would be today without decisive U.S. leadership. Ebola would be spreading throughout West Africa and likely to far corners of the world. Instead, America galvanized the world to roll back this horrible disease. Without us, Russia would be suffering no cost for its actions in Ukraine. Instead, the ruble is in a free fall, and Russia is paying dearly for flaunting the rules. Without us, there would be no military campaign or sixty countries countering ISIL’s advance. There would be no prospect for a global deal on climate change; no pressure for Iran to be at the negotiating table; and, no potential for trade that meets a higher standard for our workers and businesses.

Rice went on emphasise that the US will advance a strong, innovative, and growing US economy in an open international economic system by:

  • Strengthening American energy security and increasing global access to reliable and affordable energy to bolster economic growth and development worldwide
  • Advancing a trade agenda — including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — that creates good American jobs and shared prosperity
  • Leading efforts to reduce extreme poverty, food insecurity, and preventable deaths with initiatives such as Feed the Future and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief

Further, the National Security Advisor further stated that US will promote respect for universal values at home and around the world by:

  • Holding ourselves to the highest possible standard by living our values at home even as we do what is necessary to keep our people safe and our allies secure
  • Leading the way in confronting the corruption by promoting adherence to standards of accountable and transparent governance
  • Leading the international community to prevent and respond to human rights abuses and mass atrocities as well as gender-based violence and discrimination against LGBT persons
  • Read the other key ways the President’s plan encourages respect for universal values here.

US will also advance an international order that promotes peace, security, and oppor­tunity through stronger cooperation by:

  • Strengthening and growing our global alliances and partnerships, forging diverse coalitions, and leading at the United Nations and other multilateral organizations
  • Pursuing a stable Middle East and North Africa by countering terrorism, preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and reducing the underlying sources of conflict
  • Promoting a prosperous, secure, and democratic Western Hemisphere by expanding integration and leveraging a new opening to Cuba to expand our engagement

Rice said. “The challenges ahead will surely continue to be many and great. Progress won’t be quick or linear. But, we are committed to seizing the future that lies beyond the crisis of the day and to pursuing a vision of the world as it can and should be.”