Indian farmers are protesting: Delhi is being drawn by thousands against deregulation rules

Farmers in nearby states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh began arriving on the outskirts of New Delhi by tractor and on foot last week, where roads were blocked and temporary camps set up, according to protest leaders. Some slept on the road or in their tractors, and several places of worship offered food to the protesters.

Police tried to prevent protesters from entering the city. Tear gas and water cannons were fired on Thursday and Friday after protesters swept police with stones and damaged public property, said Manoj Yadav, a senior official from Harjana.

Farmers are protesting against laws passed in September that say Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi gives farmers more autonomy in setting their own prices and selling directly to private businesses such as department store chains.

But the move has angered India’s farmers, who say the new rules will put them at a disadvantage by making it easier for companies to exploit agricultural workers, who make up more than half of India’s 480 million people, according to India’s latest census. 2011.

Ashutosh Mishra, a media coordinator for the All India Kisan Sangharsh Commission, which represents some 200 agricultural unions, said tens of thousands of protesters had gathered on New Delhi’s three borders – a line of protesters stretched for 30 kilometers (19 miles) at one border.

Police placed handrails and dug roads to prevent protesters from entering downtown to keep seats. Mishra expects more farmers from all over the country to join the protests in the coming days.

This is despite the fact that New Delhi was the hotspot for Covid-19 in a country that has already reported more than 9.4 million reported cases, most in any country in the United States.

“We’re trying to get tired of Covid, but we have no choice – it’s a matter of life and death,” said Mukut Singh, president of the agricultural union. in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, who is leading thousands in protest in his homeland and says he will join protesters in Delhi at the end of the week.

“We were the ones who provided food, milk and vegetables when the whole country was closed – we were still working in the fields,” he said. “The government is threatening us with the introduction of these laws in Covid’s time.”

What are the protests about?

The Indian government has been offering producers guaranteed prices for certain crops for decades, providing long-term security that allows them to make investments for the next crop cycle.

Under previous laws, farmers had to sell goods at auction in their state’s Agricultural Product Market Committee, where they were guaranteed to receive at least the minimum price approved by the government. There were restrictions on who could buy at auction, and the price of basic commodities was capped.

Modi’s new laws will dismantle the committee structure, allowing farmers to sell goods to anyone. Farmers have more freedom to do things like sell to direct buyers and sell to other states.

Farmers are preparing food on the fifth day of the protest against agricultural reform laws in Singhu border, November 30, 2020, in New Delhi, India.

According to Modi, intensifying market competition would be a good thing, as it meets farmers ’need for higher incomes and gives them new rights and opportunities.

“Farmers need to reap the benefits of a large and comprehensive market that will open our country to global markets,” Modi said on Monday when farmers protested in the capital. He hopes this will attract private investment in agriculture, which has lagged behind as other parts of the country’s economy have modernized.

But farmers argue that the rules can help large companies lower prices. While farmers could sell crops at high prices when there is demand for it, conversely, they could struggle for years to meet the minimum price when there is too much supply in the market.

Singh, a farmer in Uttar Pradesh, said the removal of price guarantees would make life difficult for farmers.

“There’s a lot of anger among farmers,” he said. “We don’t even get the minimum support price currently declared – removing these protections and making it easier for companies to enter will completely buy us out.”

Why such hot political issues

For about 58% of India’s 1.3 billion inhabitants, agriculture is the primary source of livelihood, meaning farmers are the country’s largest electoral bloc.

This has made farming a central policy issue, with farmers arguing for years for minimum guaranteed prices to rise.

In protest of the center’s new farm laws on the border of Singhu near Delhi, India, on November 30, 2020, they protested to prevent farmers from entering the national capital.
In order to win over farmers, the modi Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stated in its 2014 general election declaration that all crop prices should be fixed at least 50% higher than production costs. In 2016, Modi promised to boost the country’s agricultural sector with the goal of doubling farmers ’incomes by 2022.

Modi and his government continue to insist on supporting farmers.

He welcomed the new lawswatershed moment“which ensures a complete transformation of the agricultural sector. But in addition to calling the move long overdue, Modi did not explain why he chose these measures at the time of the pandemic that caused India’s first recession in decades.

“The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Modi, has always been fully committed to solving the problems facing farmers and will continue to stand up for them,” said Narendra Singh Tomar, Minister of Agriculture and Welfare of Farmers.

Tomar called on farmers to stop their protests and prefer to discuss their issues with the government – although Modi has so far shown no signs of capitulating the protesters ’demands.