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Indian farmers: why are they protesting?

Three new agricultural laws/amendments in India, have created big chaos. In the bitterly cold weather, Indian farmers have stepped on the street to protest; starting with a few, the protest has spread throughout the country, forcing the government to rethink its decision.

But what are these three laws/amendments that have generated pandemonium in one of the world’s largest democracies? Why are farmers upset with the government and what can be the way to resolve the problem?

“Delhi Chalo” Indian farmer’s unanimous protest

Farmers from all over the country; especially from Punjab and Haryana are participating in the anti-farmbill protest at odds with the Indian government. The protest is hosted by some of the most elite farmer union of the country including; All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, Rashtriya Kisan Mahasang and Bharti Kisan Union.

With fewer obligations, the new law/amendment now has become the global point of convergence. “Delhi Chalo”, is the protest against the new bill which demands farmers all over the country to join the protesting farmers in Delhi; is becoming one of the largest protests against the Modi government. With the nationwide general strike on Tuesday (Bharat-Band); the protest is increasing every day demanding the government to rethink its decision.

But what is this law that farmers are protesting against, what does the bill really aims?

Indian farm reforms 2020

More than 50% of India’s workforce depends on agriculture as their source of income and accords just 18% to the country’s GDP. The rich soil and hostile environment make India second-largest producer of farm outputs. For further amelioration in the Agricultural field; in June of 2020, the government of India came up with new ordinances; which was passed by the Indian parliament on 27 September.

The three farms bills passed are:

  • The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020,
  • The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020,
  • Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020.

The amendments/bill aimed to bring some changes in the trade of agricultural outputs, contracts-based business, lifting stock limits of farm outputs, eradication of middleman and taking companies directly to the farmers.

How does the bill aim to benefit the farmers?

The agricultural sector was long in need of some reforms, which the bill tried to offer. Ever since the Green Revolution in 1960, the government have enormously helped farmers and the country’s agriculture system to thrive. A fixed price for crops, farming essentials and farming advancements have succoured India from far-reaching hunger to major food supplier of the world.

In the COVID pandemic when a big portion of the country was completely dependent on the government for food, the government found that they just have enough reserves to feed the population for the next 16 months. Therefore, for better agricultural produces, the government decided to modulate the existing bill along with introducing a few new ones.

Through these bills and amendments, government claims, trading of farm outputs would get further easier for the farmers. After the implementation, farmers will be free to sell their products outside mandi and trade directly with buyers. The bill will also liberate Indian farmers to enter in a contract with private companies, which previously was not allowed under the APMC model Act 2003.

Furthermore while trading outside Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC, more popular as ‘mandi‘); Indian farmers would not be liable to pay any state tax or mandi fee. Another big modulation that the bill will do is taking away the ability of the state government to regulate the market areas, APMC.

Why are the Indian farmer demanding?

Police and security forces earlier this week used tear gas and water cannons for dispersing farmers from entering into the capital city, Delhi. But farmers are fully prepared to face what the government have to throw, hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have accumulated and are protesting non-stop at the outskirts of Delhi for more than two weeks now; completely determined for their cumulative aim.

Farmers are demanding the government to completely restore the APMS because they play a crucial role in the agricultural trading ecosystem. In the protest, slogans revolve around protecting MSP (Minimum Support Price, a certain fixed price of crops, by the government) which the new law threatens.

Farmer’s fear that if the new bill gets implemented, slowly MSP will eradicate from the market; therefore they want universalisation of MSP for both governmental market places and private companies.

What’s likely to happen next?

Even though entire country’s farmers are not happy with the new farm bill; major protesting farmers are from Punjab and Haryana, the two states which supply more than half of the government procurements of wheat and paddy.

The protest so far has gained a lot of national and international support. The government and farmers had three rounds of talks but haven’t reached any negotiation point yet.

Mekhala Krishnamurthy, a senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, a New Delhi think tank says; “The protests and the negotiations are the beginning of a process that should have started at the beginning, When you bring consequential reforms like this, without having adequate consultation and consensus-building, there is a genuine expression of anxiety and concern.”