India Farmers’ Protests

photo by: Harp Farm

photo by: Harp Farm

Sim Saini

The world’s biggest protest is currently taking place in India due to its government passing bills that Indian Farmers believe will negatively affect them. On November 26, 2020, a rough estimate of 250 million people went on strike against these bills, yet the majority of the world has no idea what is going on. In fact, major news outlets have yet to even speak about it, despite the fact that the amount of people protesting is equivalent to over 75% of the population of the United States.

The Indian government has passed three agricultural bills which they claim will help the farmers. The three bills are the Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (promotion and facilitation) Act 2020, the Farmers (empowerment and protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act 2020. The first bill talks about how farmers are able to trade and sell crops in the agricultural market of India; the Indian government is making it all electronic and prohibiting state governments from levying any market fees on the farmers and electronic trading platforms. The second bill discusses how farmers are to enter into a legal framework of prearranged contracts with the future buyer of stated crops, including fixed pricing as well as fixed terms. The third bill expresses the “removal of foodstuff such as cereals, pulses, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds and oil from the list of essential commodities removing stock holding limits on such items except under ‘extraordinary circumstances’” (as quoted in the third bill).

However, what the Indian Farmers are claiming is true, the bills will oppress them even more on top of their past struggles. They know that these bills will make life harder for them than it already is. In the first bill, the government allows big corporations to take contracts from farmers for the crops they grow; meaning they will give the farmers their own manufactured machines, fertilizers, and other essentials which they’ll exploit by selling them at a higher price. Once the farmers get dependent on these companies, farmers will be asked to reduce their prices (leading to profit for the companies). If the farmers don’t agree they’ll easily find someone else which will leave the farmers helpless. In the second bill, the government is verbally saying that the Minimum Support Price (MSP) won’t be removed but are not giving it to the farmers in writing for confirmation. Since the word MSP isn’t mentioned anywhere in the bill, companies will be able to purchase crops at any price then sell them for more, increasing their margin of profit but leaving the farmers at a loss. Before, even with the government’s help, the farmers would barely earn a livable wage; now with these new bills, it would be even harder. These bills also take away the security they used to have when the government aided with the process. In the third bill, the decrease in interference from the government will lead to the exploitation of the farmers by companies. This could also lead to increased prices for the consumers which means that everyone would get negatively affected by this amendment. Because of this, the suicide rates of Punjabi farmers have skyrocketed because of how hard it is for them to provide for their families.

In order to get the Indian government to listen to them, farmers in Punjab have been peacefully protesting for the last couple of months. When realizing that this was not getting their voice heard in Delhi, India’s capital, they organized a rally. Tens of thousands of farmers traveled from Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan all the way to Delhi, with most traveling over 300 miles. They have brought tractors, cars, and other supplies needed to be able to stay overnight like tents, sleeping bags, and food. When government officials heard of this organized protest, they tried their best to prevent farmers from entering Delhi. Some methods included digging ditches on major roads, tear gassing, water cannons, and other forms of police brutality.

After days of protesting, it was obvious that despite being the world’s largest democracy, the Indian government did not truly give a shit about its people. In an attempt to create awareness and to get India to listen, Indians residing in other countries also held large peaceful protests. These protests occurred in major cities all over the world, such as Washington DC, New York City, Oakland, Fresno, London, Toronto, and Melbourne. An effort to create awareness was also made on social media by creating various hashtags and providing more information on the situation. However, the hashtags were muted on both Facebook and Instagram. Despite this setback, the community is still trying to spread awareness.