In today’s current news, thousands of enraged Indian farmers recently abandoned their fields in one of the biggest protests that the country has ever seen. Tens of thousands of Indian farmers protesting have been living in camps and alongside highways in New Delhi, India’s capital, since this past November.
To prevent farmers from encroaching closer to Delhi’s center, police have erected massive barricades with barbed wire just a hundred meters from the closest camp. Farmers are currently fighting new laws that came into place this past September, which could destroy their way of life. On the other hand, the government feels that its new laws will help bring India’s agricultural sector into the 21st century.
What Are These New Laws?
Traditionally, India’s government has provided farmers with price guarantees for specific crops, which has helped create stable investments and decisions for the continuous annual crop cycle. Farmers protesting in India, under the prior laws, would sell their goods at the Agricultural Produce Market Committee’s auction, a place where they had a minimum price guarantee at least.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently introduced three new laws, essentially dismantling the structure of the committee, which allows farmers to sell their goods to anyone they please at any price they would like.
However, the majority of farmers say that there is a dark side to these laws, which will allow corporations to drive the price of certain goods down. If there is high demand, farmers can get great prices. However, if there is no demand or too much supply, farmers could struggle to get even the minimal price.
The Political Problem
Around 58% of the 1.3 billion people living in India are farmers. These people also make up the largest set of voters in the country, which is why it is such a major political problem.
In recent years, Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party attempted to win the farmer’s vote by fixing the crop prices at 50% more than production costs in 2014 and double the income of farmers by 2022 in 2016.
According to Modi and the rest of the Indian government, these new laws are beneficial. They believe that they will increase market competition, therefore boosting the average farmer’s income. Plus, Modi believes these new laws will open India’s agricultural industry to global markets, which may attract private investors.
These mass protests started after the laws were passed in September. Going into November, angry farmers set up tractor converts to blockade the borders of New Delhi while thousands of residents marched into the city from nearby states. Police began firing water cannons and tear gas to stop the angry mob from entering the city.
Many supporters across India participated in hunger and labor strikes throughout December. Some of the largest demonstrations grew to more than 100,000 people.
After the many violent confrontations between police and protestors, a statement was released accusing Modi and the BJP of unnecessary and excessive force.
Despite months of negotiation, government leaders and farmers’ unions have yet to reach a compromise. By mid-January, the Indian Supreme Court suspended the three laws until they could work something out with the farmers’ unions.
Just this past week, rallies were held in several states and farmers protesting in India continued to block highways in protest.