Farmers from the nearby states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh are organizing on a national level to protest the agricultural policies set forth by the BJP. Arriving both on tractors and on foot in India’s capital New Delhi. Farmers and their families have been blocking roads, setting makeshift camps in New Delhi according to organizers. Police have put up barriers and dug up roads to prevent protesters from coming into the city center to hold sit-ins. Police fired tear gas and water cannons to stop the protesters from entering the city.
The farmers are protesting a law introduced by the BJP and the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi. The laws, passed in September, Narendra Modi says will give farmers more autonomy to set their own prices and sell directly to private businesses, such as supermarket chains. The move has enraged farmers saying that the law would make it open season for big corporations to exploit the farmers.
For decades, the Indian government has offered guaranteed prices to farmers for certain crops, providing long-term certainty that allows them to make investments for the next crop cycle. Under the previous laws, farmers were to sell their goods at auction at their state's Agricultural Produce Market Committee. At these auctions, they were guaranteed at least the government-agreed minimum price. There were restrictions on who could purchase at auction and prices were capped for essential commodities. Modi’s new laws would disassemble the committees, allowing farmers to sell their goods to anyone for any price. Farmers would have more freedom to sell to anyone with the farmers’ set prices. However, farmers believe selling directly to big corporations could make it easier for the corporations to undervalue the crops. While farmers could sell crops at upraised prices if the demand is there, conversely, they could struggle to meet the minimum price at times when there is too much supply in the market.
Agriculture is the prime source of livelihood for 58% of India’s population of 1.3 billion people. That's made farming a central political issue, with farmers arguing for years to get the minimum guaranteed prices increased. In 2014, then-candidate Modi promised federally backed minimum wages 50% higher than production costs in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) general election manifesto. In 2016, Modi promised to boost the country's agriculture sector with a target of doubling the income of farmers by 2022. According to Ashutosh Mishra, the media coordinator of protest organizer All India Kisan Sangharsh Committee, which represents around 200 farming unions, promises made most definitely weren’t kept.
The world is witnessing the largest protest in human history. Happening in the World's largest democracy; India. These farmers are protesting bills that would take away the federal (government) guaranteed prices, making it easier for big corporations to exploit the farmers.
Tanveer Kaur is a first generation Indian-American. She is politically involved in both local and national politics. She is passionate about creating change to form a society where everyone is welcome.
Cover Photo Source: CNN