Request for urgent expression of concern and action
The Right Honourable Dominic Raab currently serving as the UK’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, recently labelled the unconstitutional enactment of the Three Farm Laws and the ongoing farmer’s protest in New Delhi (India) as ‘internal matters of India’. However, Dominic Raab is both wrong and abrogating from the UK’s responsibility to raise the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his majority Government on international human rights ground.
The issue at stake is the enactment of laws introducing free market forces in the small farming sector, which is a protected sector almost everywhere in the world. These are the Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill 2020; the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill 2020; and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill. These laws not only contravene international treaties and well established international human rights norms but they also have far reaching negative implications for world poverty, the environment, food security and small farming around the globe.
These laws, entitled the Three Farm Laws, will erode the fragile protection afforded to India’s small farmers. The laws were brought in without any consultation or negotiation with the farmers or their unions. Which contravenes the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants (UNDROP) adopted in 2018. The current Government enjoys a large majority in Parliament. However, it has refused to go through the normal stages of legislation, such as setting up a parliamentary working group, or permitting a proper debate in Parliament.
Currently small farmers in India only have a few protections.
The central Government sets an assured price, called a Minimum Support Price (MSP) for some 22 crops after considering costs, such as fertilisers, diesel for tractors, electricity etc…
In some states there are sub-regional markets with warehouses, so small farmers don’t have to travel long distances to sell and deliver their produce.
However, the Three Farm Laws have removed MSP without replacing it with any financial support to ensure that small farming as an occupation or way of life continues in India. The Government contends that the reforms mean that the small farmers can now sell their crops on the open market at any price. However, what the Government has failed to realise is that this will push prices down as large trading houses take over from the small traders. Therefore, the farmers fear that they will go bankrupt and will consequently be forced to sell their lands to large trading houses.
Secondly, the laws will remove the subregional markets. Which will make it extremely difficult for farmers to move their produce without fear of it rotting. Which in turn will unacceptably drive up the farmers transportation costs.
Therefore, both of these issues contravene the protections and facilities that the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants seeks to protect in order to ensure that small farming as a way of life continues.
The third violation of international human rights norms is that the Three Farm Laws have introduced the denial of access to legal recourse in the event of a dispute arising between a small farmer and a large national trader of produce. Principally, as the Government has legislated that the farmers cannot go to court but must instead refer the matter to arbitration by a local Government appointed official, who by no means can be considered to be independent. Therefore, by removing access to an independent judicial system, the small farmers fear that they will be at the mercy of a Government officer who cannot be considered to be impartial or who will favour large corporate interests over the interests of the small farmers. In other words, it is highly likely that the Government official will not pay due consideration to the small farmers right to a reasonable standard of living as is so required by the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants.
Therefore, the farmers fear that they will be driven out of farming as an occupation or a way of life and thrown to the unregulated employment sector. Only 10% of Indians currently work in the regulated employment sector.
Therefore, the farmer protestors and their numerous supporters are asking PM Modi and his majority Government to:
Therefore, as can clearly be seen from the above human rights are not internal matters of States, as Dominic Raab unsustainably contends, but are of concern to the whole world. For instance, if the UK can take up the issues of the protestors in Hong Kong, it can take up the issues of the farmers in India. Specifically, the clear violations of the provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and various other primary instruments of international law by the Indian Government.
To demonstrate your support for the farmers fight for justice please sign the petition below. Alternatively, if you represent or are part of a UN Treaty body, NGO or other civil society organisation please contact the editor of this statement or Sikh Human Rights Group direct in order to be put in contact with some of the farmer leaders or for assistance in your enquires.