Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley has criticised the government for toeing the line of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) members at the recent Bali Ministerial Conference and ending up with clauses that conferred “unbridled powers” on all others to scrutinise and decide India’s food security programme.
He was critical of the Indian negotiators at the conference. “The powers to decide what is right for the farmers and poor people of the country would no longer reside in the Indian Parliament. It would be dictated by the rest of the world.”
Post-Bali, the country’s food security programme had become more vulnerable to “interference” by WTO member-countries. “There would be greater international scrutiny because of the strict compliance norms stipulated by the WTO. There would be external pressures to adjust and size the public food stock holdings in India,” he said in a statement issued here.
Flagging issues that could adversely impact India, Mr. Jaitley referred to clause 4 under the heading ‘Anti-Circumvention/Safeguards.’ “This clause was very mischievous and loaded against India. It had the potential to expose India’s food security programme to a host of challenges. It may extend to issues such as who should be regarded as poor in India, what should be the nutritional support that should be extended to such poor people, what should be the quantum of subsidy that should be given and many other related issues.”
Clause 6 of the agreement that made it binding upon India to hold consultations with other members whenever requested about the operation of the public stock holding programme, he said, would allow international scrutiny.
“While on the one hand we have been told that India would not accept any restrictions on how it runs its food security programme, the agreement contains many open ended clauses that confer unbridled powers on all other WTO members to scrutinise, question and force us to right-size our food security programme,” the BJP leader said.
India should not have accepted anything less than total exemption from any challenge to its food security programme under the Agreement on Agriculture. “By agreeing to the peace clause in this form as a temporary measure, India has given up its right to negotiate for a total exemption on a permanent basis,” he said.