NEW DELHI

Explain WTO pact to farmers, Badal tells PM

Staff Correspondent

CHANDIGARH: Shiromani Akali Dal president Parkash Singh Badal has said that by agreeing to the "subsidy reduction clause" in the recent Hong Kong round of WTO negotiations India had virtually signed on the death warrants of millions of beleaguered farmers of the country.

In a statement here, Mr. Badal asked the Prime Minister to explain to the farmers how a reduction in subsidies to them was a cause for celebration.

He said India ended up walking into the trap laid by the developed countries whose farmers can do without farm export subsidies.

"It is amazing that the Union Government is seeing a victory in the subsidy reduction clause without realising that any reduction by developed countries will have to be matched by a similar cut by the farm-oriented developing nations like India. For a country where farmers are committing suicide because of inadequate government support, this is a shocking development and one that will sound the death knell of farm sector in India,'' said Mr. Badal.

The Akali Dal chief said India should have pressed for an enhanced subsidy regime for the developing countries while advocating a cut for the developed nations to account for the vast disparities in ground realities affecting farmers in the two worlds.

Agriculture in India was in a state of doldrums and needed major doses of governmental assistance even for basic subsistence, Mr. Badal said, adding that there was no level-playing field for farmers in the developed and developing countries.

Referring to the absence of any reciprocal guarantees from the developed world, Mr. Badal said, "Too much has already been conceded for no gains to show for our farmers.

With no forward movement in the service sector and with vague promises on industrial tariff cuts, it is clear that India came back with its pockets picked from Hong Kong.

The victory claimed by the G-20 assumed menacing implications under the circumstances,'' said Mr. Badal.

Echoing the views expressed by eminent opinion makers in the country, Mr. Badal said the size and nature of agricultural exports had already reduced subsidies on farm exports to a sideshow.

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