Farmers in India have been blocking the roads to Delhi as part of ongoing protests to controversial farming bills, which were hurriedly passed in September. The protest reportedly even involved a 250 million-strong, 24 hour general strike in late November. These numbers reveal the scale of the issue. But why do such a large number of people feel so strongly about this legislation?
Prime Minister Modi claims the laws will ultimately double farmers’ incomes by getting rid of red tape, removing middle men and allowing farmers to sell their produce to a wider national market. However, farmers are concerned that the end of guaranteed minimum prices would lead to them being exploited by big businesses. They strongly distrust the nationalist government and worry their livelihoods are being sold out to line the pockets of India’s elite classes. Their fears have been compounded by the former Chief Economist of the World Bank.
Agriculture forms the bedrock of Indian society, employing over half of the population. Over 250 million people’s way of life is at risk and their protests have been met with widespread brutality by government forces. The Supreme Court has since temporarily suspended the new laws to facilitate further negotiations. These people are fighting for their lives and deserve our sympathy and support.