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THERE are indeed some Indian farmers who favour Arthur Dunkel's draft proposals for the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT). Six thousand of them gathered on March 31 outside the Red Fort in Delhi, on the very ground where more than double that number of anti-Dunkel farmers had staged their rally four weeks ago.
Sharad Joshi, the main speaker at the rally organised by the Kisan Coordination Committee, said the draft contains "what the Indian farmers have been demanding for 10 years." The colourful posters and banners at the rally, endorsing the draft proposals, were the first-ever public expression in India of pro-Dunkel sentiments. Added Joshi, "The rally is not so much pro-Dunkel as in support of ourselves."
Supporting the pro-Dunkel resolution passed at the rally, rally speakers criticised the protests led by M D Nanjundaswamy of Karnataka and UP's Mahendra Singh Tikait and condemned these as "campaigns by vested interests to provoke farmers against the GATT proposals".
The rallyists' loudest cheers were in response to criticism of government regulations that restrict free movement of grain, which the farmers contend prevents them from selling their produce at markets of their choice. Malan Shinde from Kolhapur district in Maharashtra told Down To Earth, "The Dunkel proposals would definitely bring the benefits of the open market system to farmers like me." And, supporting him was Ajitsingh Kahnu of Karnal in Haryana, who emphasised, "The main thrust of globalisation and liberalisation of the Indian economy is invariably in the farmer's interest."
KCC organisers boasted farmers had come from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Maharashtra to attend the rally. As for their number, Joshi assured pro-Dunkelists would organise a "real rally" in the near future.