Geopolitics

Money Before People? The Farmers’ Protest in India

February 25, 2021

Maria Garcia Ribera

The Farmers’ Protest in India

 

 

This Grey Dynamics article examines why the Farm bills of 2020 have created violent protests throughout India and what the bills mean for farmers and their financial situation, highly showing that the Indian government is only interested in its economic improvement at the population’s cost.

 

 

The Context

 

In 2017, the Indian government introduced model farming acts. The Standing Committee on Agriculture 2018-19 noted that several reforms suggested in the model had not been implemented by the states. The Government of India promulgated three ordinances the first week of June 2020.

 

The Farm Acts:

 

  1. The Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020

  2. Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act,2020

  3. Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020

 

 

 

Timeline

 

1943-44: The Bengal Famine – forced many to sell their farms and left the country reliant on foreign food aid for decades.

 

1947-1967: the expansion of farming lands –the government expanded the amount of land that could be used for farming.

 

1967-78: The Green Revolution – Continued expansion of farmlands, double-cropping, and the development of new high-yield varieties of seeds.

 

1991: The golden age of the Agricultural Produce Market Committee -Safe and fair environment for farmers.

 

2006: Farmers take issue with the APMC – Market facilities were not keeping pace with the increased amounts of produce farmer had begun to grow.

 

2020: Agricultural workers make up half of India’s workforce – According to India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, farm and agricultural workers make up over half of the country’s total workforce – 166 million individuals.

 

August 2020: India enters recession and protests begin– farmers shut down by the government due to COVID-19.

 

September 2020: The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commission Act passes –Grants farmers more freedom by dismantling the APMC and allowing them to sell their crops to anyone for any price.

 

23rd November 2020: Protesters march towards Delhi – violent clash between police and protesters.

 

26th November 2020: The world’s biggest strike – 250 million works strike in solidarity with the farmers as well as a protest for other labour laws.

 

1st, 3rd, 5th December 2020: Government officials met with protest leaders– No agreements were reached at any meeting.

 

5th December 2020: International solidarity protests -protests in the United States and in the United Kingdom.

 

24th January 2021: Tractor Rally – Protesters believe it is a matter of life and death as they have no plans to cease the protests any time soon.

 

30th January 2021: Internet shutdown in Delhi – to “maintain public safety”, it merely incited panic.

 

 

 

Stubbornness on Both Sides

 

The government says the reforms will bring much-needed investment to the farm sector, which accounts for 15% of India’s $2.9 trillion economy. Prime Minister Modi has invited farmer union leaders to meet and talk to resolve the impasse of the farm law. The government also offered to amend the laws and suspend their implementation for 18 months, which did not satisfy farmers. They want a full repeal as the Bill leaves them more vulnerable than ever before, allowing corporations to drive down the cost of certain crops.

 

On the other hand, counter-protesters gathered in Delhi to protest several international celebrities who angered the government through Twitter. Photos of celebrities were burnt; banners were held warning that international interference in Indian affairs would not be tolerated. Media access to the protest sites was cut off as well as internet services. It is only rising the tension and support for the farmer’s protest, seen as a threat as it can lead to the overthrow of the government.

 

In a tweet on the 5th of February, the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner, highlighted the need for equitable solutions with respect for human rights.

 

 

 

Summary

 

Farmers have been an integral part of India’s agricultural history and makeup half of the Indian workforce. Albeit the government neglect to negotiating initially to repeal the laws, they are now willing to hear the farmers’ demands and reach an agreement. Nonetheless, they will not change the Farm Bill, considered to benefit farmers and the overall economy of India. Farmers fear that under the new laws, smaller private traders will be replaced by larger corporations, significantly diminishing their ability to negotiate prices on equal terms; directly affecting their financial income. It, therefore, seems that the government only cares for the money rather than its people.

 

 

 

Image: Randeep Maddoke / Wikimedia Commons (link)

 

 

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