The Indian Farmers Protest
One of the biggest protests in the world is occurring at this very moment, and its outcome can send waves across the world. Tens of thousands of farmers in India are taking over major highways and taking to the streets of New Delhi to protest the government’s impending amendment that will drastically impact every farmer’s livelihood: agriculture.
Essentially, the Indian government wants to reform the laws surrounding agriculture, namely those impacting food prices, which almost directly correlate with farmers’ wages. By moving toward a market-oriented economy, the government claims farmers will be free from state-run economic systems. It is important to note that farming is one of the largest sources of income in India, with nearly half of India’s workforce concentrated in agriculture, according to a census conducted in 2011. The work from these thousands of farmers not only feeds India’s population of over 1.3 billion people but also supplies much of the world’s spices, such as chili, turmeric, and ginger.
Should the amendment pass, much of the control over essential factors to farming will lie in the hands of larger corporations rather than the farmers themselves. While not technically guaranteed, this could threaten a decrease in already low wages that farmers receive (about 140 American dollars a month). The farmers believe that their work is worth more than what little control they have over their products and transferring this control could mean a loss of business autonomy.
These new laws are not only detrimental to their policies but also their timing. COVID-19 outbreaks have forced some farmers out of their jobs and others with shortened hours, more demanding workloads, and fluctuating sales. Rather than repairing the damages caused by the global pandemic, farmers believe that the government will wreak even more havoc in the lives of working-class Indians.
Some protests have taken the form of peaceful gatherings, such as the thousands that sleep on or near New Delhi highways, or more extreme demonstrations like burning fields full of crops. "We will lose our lands, we will lose our income if you let big business decide prices and buy crops," Gurnam Singh Charuni, one of the main leaders of the agitation, told the BBC recently. Many have vowed to stay in the streets protesting daily until a change is brought upon, and some have even set up camps where protesters are free to cook, eat, and sleep together as a sign of solidarity. Regardless of the type of protest being performed, it is clear that farmers in India are more than unhappy and afraid and will not be appeased until their voices are heard and recognized by the government.