Millennium Post

India has shown real spine, finally

It is also an acid test for the prime minister on the international diplomatic dais, in its expanded avatar and not just comprising the subcontinent or our East Asian neighbours. While the US-driven first world expected India to tow the usual conniving line and accept the TFA (signed at the Bali ministerial meeting last December and estimated to add USD trillion to the world economy and create over 21 million jobs worldwide), that New Delhi has stuck its neck out to bat for food security not only for itself but for the entire gamut of developing and less developed nations is both a matter of pride as well as bracing for some consular thorns that would come in the way of foreign policy-makers.

The patently unfair provision in WTO, pushed, naturally, by the US and its Western lackeys, puts a permanent cap on the procurement price that the various national governments can offer their famrmers for their respective food security and subsidy programmes. Because the cap has been set at 1986-88 prices and has not been so far adjusted for the staggering inflation that has been plaguing Asian and Latin American economies for over two decades now, the clause is not only extremely damaging to small and medium-level farmers and agro-businessmen in developing countries, it is also the reason why poor countries have been unable to sufficiently implement food security programmes in their respective lands. The real baloney lies in the dire policy contradiction that sees US provide enormous subsidies to its own farmers while acting to the detriment of agricultural producers in the second and third worlds by not addressing the crucial demand of setting a higher, inflation adjustment procurement price.

Even though at the Bali ministerial meet, WTO had agreed to rectify this problem, it had expected to extract a massive pound of flesh by not only arm-twisting the developing and emerging economies such as India, Indonesia, China, Brazil, South Africa, among others, to accept TFA, but also postponing the reworking of the minimum procurement price at an unspecified future date. The idea clearly had been to compel the new global powers, particularly the members of BRICS, to sign TFA and set some more conditions before looking at their grievances.

However, India’s insistence on finding a permanent solution to ensuring food security in the Global South might have inconvenienced the international community in the short run, but has paved the way for a more equitable and egalitarian food and agro economy in the longer innings. Moreover, just paying extra cash to farmers (which the WTO doesn’t object to) cannot compensate the basic factorial inequation that is built into the mechanism to calculate the current procurement price. While singing paeans to market economics is understandable, Modi government’s determination in this regard is quite reassuring.    

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