In the past couple of days, social media platforms have been swarming with articles and photographs of the many thousands of farmers who have been constituting protests that extend for several miles at India’s capital. Protesters ranging from the North Indian states Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana have blocked main highways and roads in order to demand the government to resolve complaints on farm reforms regarding their sales rights. What is causing all this commotion, and what is the significance behind these mass protests?
For years now, farmers have dealt with extensive droughts, crop price declination, and demonetization. Back in September, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued a parliament that passed three farming and deregulation laws that could severely jeopardize the income and living situations of farmers across the country.
The bill consists of three laws:
The first bill allows farmers to sell their produce directly to both private buyers and mandis (although formerly, a few states have been enabling farmers to sell directly to instant field retailers).
The second bill develops an agricultural contract agreement that promotes dispute settlement mechanisms with pre-determined prices rather than farmers’ listed prices.
The third bill allows buyers to purchase and propagate goods without restriction while reducing the central government’s liaison in governing the supply of specific goods. This situation only allows the government to intrepid and regulate good merely in times of war or famine.
The bill was created to enable farmers to sell their vegetation and produce directly to private buyers (contract buying), outside government-controlled market places. This legislation allows farmers to accumulate and reserve crops. To elaborate, before the parliament was passed, produce was sold by farmers at the state Agricultural Produce Market Committee. This was significant because farmers had the option of selling their goods to the Mandis (government-regulated markets) for the minimum government listed price of purchase, known as Minimum Support Price. These government-guaranteed prices served as a crucial safety net for farmers who had not sold their crops for higher prices. However, the current issue is that agricultural workers are quite vulnerable to exploitation. This is because markets could financially crater their incomes, due to the alteration in selling to corporations over the government-controlled market places which will lead to farmers selling their produce for much cheaper than it is worth to stay steady with the market. Modi’s new laws eliminate the Minimum Support Price, which will easily allow larger companies to be manipulative with altered produce expenses and to drive down prices. This will both decrease farmers’ earnings and belittle their validity -- which could have a detrimental impact on their negotiation power.
Farmers have been protesting against these pro-corporation agriculture laws. Millions across India are worried for farmers’ living situations, as this bill can make it harder for them to take cases to the court and lead them to unemployment and debt. In the long run, farmers may be forced to survive through low earnings and even sell land to maintain debt. Although agricultural workers are crucial to India’s labor force/economy, as over 60% of the population depends on agriculture for living, these farmers have been feeling an absence of support from the government. Farmers used to make up ⅓ of India’s gross domestic product, but new regulations are decreasing their economic power to only 3/20 of the gross domestic product.
Thankfully, their protests have brought great awareness to the public, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is limitedly accounting the laws by enabling farmers to, once again, set their desired prices, sell to buyers and corporations and buyers directly, and increase agricultural growth by participating in private investment. This, however, would not be the best protocol to follow. A preferable method would be to satisfy the needs of farmers by increasing the Minimum Support Price.
Modi’s justifications are not enough. Farmer’s continue to persevere for their rights. They deserve better recognition, support, and representation from the government for all that they do. Their main demand through these protests is to revert the parliament and keep the Minimum Support Price for their crops. Along with that, they yearn to withdraw the electricity usage law, remove the crop burning fine, and legally define the Minimum Support Price.
As for the current situation, on December 1, 2020, agricultural workers met with government officials, who proposed an idea to create a committee to justify and create new laws. However, they were unable to create a resolution, as the farmers refused the proposal. Next, on December 3, 2020, the government plans to negotiate with farmers again. Military officers have been armed and deployed with tear gas and water cannons, but the agricultural workers continue to persist by protesting and occupying Delhi, despite Modi’s party’s reference to them as “anti-national”.
People around the world including economists, agricultural experts, and medical professionals have been supporting the farmers with sympathy, donations, food, and cheers. If you want to help support the fight for farmers’ rights, please consider spreading awareness on social media platforms by using hashtags such as #DilliChalo and #FarmerProtest and possibly donating to centers such as Khalsa Aid, Kisaani, Punjabi Kisaan Support Fund, Sahaita Farmer Support Project, Haritika, and AARDE Foundation!