(Trigger warning: mentions of suicide)
In November of 2020, North Indian farmers marched to Delhi to protest the farming privatisation laws that were passed by the Modi administration. This protest is still ongoing to this day. The farmers have taken action to attract the attention of the government through building camps inside Delhi. They also public performing hunger strikes to show their dedication to the cause. The farmers possess enough rations at these make-shift camps to last for at least 6 months. They refuse to leave without their demands being met. Most recently in this protest, a violent tractor rally that occurred had injured over three hundred police officers and killed 1 protester.
The response of the government towards this state of turmoil has been undemocratic thus far. The police have launched tear gas and water cannons on protestors. Journalists are also seen to be targeted during this time of conflict, as some are being arrested. Further measures are also taken to quell the protests, such as blocking the mobile internet services where the farmers are holding their strikes.
Brief History of the Farmer Problem in India
The system prior to these new laws was already flawed, but this new reform would only worsen the situation of the farmers. There exists a huge income disparity between farmers in different states, and deregulation would exacerbate these conditions.
The farming industry has also been shrinking. From making up to 50% of the economy back during the early days of independence, they now make as little as 15%. This has caused over 50% of farmers in India to be in debt and many have committed suicide as a result. In 2019 alone, over 10 thousand farmers have committed suicide. That is about 31 farmers everyday.
Why Does The Government Want To Pass These Laws?
The government has proclaimed that these news laws will modernise the agricultural sector through liberalisation.
The First Act of the new agricultural bill is the establishment of free unregulated trade spaces outside of the markets. The Second Act involves a new framework surrounding contract deals, indicating that business contracts would only be between farmers and traders. This would mean that there would be very little interference from outside parties such as the government. The Third Act will remove storage limits previously established by the government to control prices.
These bills are indicative of three different things; the farmers will be deprived of their government-regulated markets, their controlled prices, as well as losing any form of protection that they previously had from the government. As such, these laws will mainly profit large corporations and not farmers. If anything, it will leave Indian farmers more vulnerable to exploitation by big corporations.
The Indian government should be compelled to side with the Indian farmers, especially since 58% of its population are farmers. That percentage itself already accounts for over one hundred and fifty million people. The President should start accepting the demands of farmers because they are not going anywhere until their demands are met.
Written by: Yasmin Raquq