Indian Farmers Protest
By Shinedip Kundlas
Volume 1 Issue 4
January 20, 2021
Image provided by Altaf Qadri/The Associated Press
NEW DELHI - Tens of thousands of farmers have flooded India's capitol since November 30th and they intend to camp out for weeks to protest new agricultural laws they say could ruin their livelihoods. Farmers from states all over India, including the northern states of Punjab and Haryana - known as India’s “food bowl,” set up makeshift barricades of tractors and trailers across roads, railway lines, and highways leading to New Delhi. They have been protesting in the capitol for 6 weeks now and are met with harsh conditions such as cold weather and tear gas. On November 26, a nationwide general strike involving approximately 250 million people took place in support of the farmer unions.
For five months, Indian Farmers have been protesting laws passed in September, 2020. The protest originally started in Punjab. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says the new laws will liberate farmers and private investment, bringing in growth. Farmers are unconvinced, fearing that the confiscation of state protections they already deem inadequate will leave them at the mercy of corporate greed. Under the prior laws, farmers had to sell their commodities at an auction at their state's Agricultural Produce Market Committee. A government-approved minimum price was established for items and the auction was controlled by restrictions on who could buy alongside price caps on necessities. The Indian Government says the new laws give farmers a chance to decide their prices and sell directly to private businesses, like grocery chains. Others argue new laws help big companies push down prices. While farmers possibly will sell crops at greater prices if the demand is there, on the contrary, they could struggle to meet the minimum price in years to come when there is too much supply in the market. Farmers say the new rules will leave them worse off by making it easier for corporations to exploit agricultural workers. More than 60 percent of India’s 1.3 billion population still predominantly solely depends on agriculture for their livelihood.
Government support to farmers, and management of the market with assured minimum prices for specific vital crops, aided India to move past the alarming hunger of the 1960s to produce a surplus of grain in current years. However, with India liberalizing its economy in recent decades, Modi perceives a huge role for the government as not as sustainable. Farmers, however, say they are grappling even with the prevailing protections. The farmers believe market-friendly laws will ultimately eradicate governing support and leave them deprived of income. India’s weakened economy because of COVID-19 gives them hardly any chance of a better livelihood.
How exactly will these protests affect you? India is the world’s largest producer, consumer, and exporter of spices. Everything from turmeric to Basmati comes from Indian farmers. According to Spices Board India, India produces 68% of the world’s spices. These spices include pepper, cardamom, chili, ginger, turmeric, coriander, cumin, garlic, curry powder, and fennel. Not to mention, chances are some item hanging in your closet was made in India. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, India is the world’s leading producer of cotton.
Organizations like Khalsa Aid, an international humanitarian relief group, have teams on the ground working with protest organizers. Farmers at the Tikri border will no longer have to jostle in a crowd in search of assistance and support. Khalsa Aid has set up a ‘Kisan Mall’ at the border to provide farmers items of daily use for free. The mall is providing blankets, toothbrushes, toothpaste, sweaters, jackets, vests, blankets, oil, Vaseline, socks, washing soap, bathing soap, shampoo, combs, sanitary pads, and more. People around the globe have been protesting to demonstrate support and stand with the farmers because the protests are about "the people who feed all of us". From Surrey Australia, Birmingham, England, in the small town of Canton, Michigan, and to Long Island NY people have been showing support.