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Indian farmers marching through the streets in protest of the new laws

Another injustice takes place as politicians add new laws to the Indian agricultural sector. For years, the government marginalized the farmers in India. Thus, these new laws are pilling on top of years of resentment and unfairness. Therefore, Indian farmers and their families are marching through the streets and demanding to have their voices heard.

Brewing anger

For years, the government neglected the farming sector. The declining productivity, as well as the lack of modernization, have turned this sector for the worse. Furthermore, the government’s push for better crop prices, additional loan waivers, and irrigation systems have also played a huge role in the current state of events. Thus, though more than half of the Indian population works within agriculture, farming barely makes a sixth of the country’s GDP.

Also, the government’s reaction to the protest isn’t helping either. Calling the protestors “misguided” and “anti-national”, instead of hearing their needs is definitely not the correct route. Neither is harming protestors with water cannons and tear gas for that matter.

India’s new farm laws

In the past, the government’s law helped in protecting the farmers from the clutches of the open market prices. However, the laws three laws passed in September are going to change that. To deregulate India’s agriculture sector, Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims that these laws will “liberate” farmers from the tyranny of middlemen. Though the promise sounds sweet enough, farmers fear that these words won’t translate well in reality. They believe that only agricultural corporations with gargantuan financial firepower will truly benefit from them. Thus, leaving the average farmer struggling to make meets ends.

The laws will facilitate the farmers’ relation with the private sector. Therefore, the laws will allow farmers to enter into contracts with private companies. On the other hand, the laws will permit traders to stockpile food. In other words, the new regulation will allow rich cooperation to hoard food while rising prices.

The Roots of the problem

Farmers are most concerned with the removal of their safeguards. Since smallholder farmers control and own most of India’s cultivated farmland, each of them produces a limited number of harvests. It also means that there are several sellers of the same product. Therefore, they fear the greed of big corporations. Farmers don’t have much bargaining power over such companies when setting up the prices.

“The government has left us at the mercy of big corporations,” Rashpinder Singh, 27, a farmer from Punjab state, told Al Jazeera in September.

“It is preposterous to believe that farmers who have small landholdings will have any bargaining power over private players.”

Moreover, the new regulation won’t allow disputes to go to a regular court. When conflict arises, farmers should seek out a so-called conciliation board, district-level administrative officers, or an appellate authority.

Minimum price

Usually, farmers were able to rely on government support for certain crops like rice and wheat via the MSP. However, the new rules don’t mention any minimum price for any product. Therefore, farmers fear the looming abolishment of the MSP. The abolishment will hurt a lot of families growing these crops, many of whom make a considerable proportion of the protesters in the streets.

Less legal protection

Another problem with the new regulation is that they dismiss the mandatory written contracts. In case of a dispute, farmers have little to help them prove their case. With no one to pressure the private sector, they will be free to do as they like with little to no consequence.

“Freedom is about actual, viable choices. Choices that you can realize. The point is to expand opportunities and you need to do that by investing in agriculture and the creation of livelihoods off the field,” says Mekhala Krishnamurthy, an associate professor of sociology and anthropology at Ashoka University.

References:

Al Jazeera. (2020, December 5). Indian farmers vow to intensify protests after talks fail again. India | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/12/5/indian-farmers-vow-to-intensify-protests-after-talks-fail-againBahree, M. (2020, December 1). Why are thousands of Indian farmers protesting? India News | Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2020/12/1/why-are-thousands-of-indian-farmers-protestingBiswas, S. (2020, December 3). What has brought India’s farmers to the streets? BBC News. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-55157574NPR Cookie Consent and Choices. (2020, December 4). Npr. https://choice.npr.org/index.html?origin=https://www.npr.org/2020/12/04/943082236/indias-farmers-man-barricades-in-delhi-protesting-new-agriculture-lawsReuters. (2020, December 6). Thousands protest in London against India’s new farm laws. The Hindu. https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/thousands-protest-in-london-against-indias-new-farm-laws/article33265139.ece