- Leena M.G Osman
INDIA FARMERS PROTEST & THE FARM BILLS (2020-2021)
The Indian farmers’ protest is an ongoing demonstration of deep dissatisfaction against three farm acts passed by the Indian Parliament in September of 2020.
Although the Farms Acts, often referred to as the “Farm Bills”, were presented as a gateway to ensuring the positive transformation and modernization of the agriculture sector and the empowerment of millions of farmers through the ease of rules regarding storage, marketing and sale of produce, many of the protestors question the integrity of the reforms and view them as “anti-farmer” and “corporate friendly”.
Moreover, the privatization of the sector and the elimination of a minimum price for agriculture products could have detrimental effects on smaller farmers. Various opposition parties alleged that the bills were passed “unconstitutionally” and in “complete disregard” of parliamentary norms.
As the frustrations of farmers intensified, a “Bharat Bandh'' was declared on the 25th of September 2020, a form of protest in which a political party or a community declared a general strike. During the strike, the general public is expected to remain at home and refrain from attending work. This call for action was supported by over 10 central trade unions and 18 political parties.
[ Bandh is a Hindi word that translates to ‘closed’. Bharat stands for India.]
Enraged farmers have abandoned their fields to lead one of the largest protests witnessed in the country, with thousands of them camped on the outskirts of Delhi since late November, as they continue to relentlessly fight for their livelihood and highlight the severity of these bills.
*Picture taken by Gayatri Malhotra
Although the protests have been peaceful, clashes between police and protestors have been reported, with multiple witnesses alleging the torture and harassment of protestors, however it has not been independently verified.
Within that context, protestors stormed Delhi’s historic Red Fort in January 2021, resulting in the death of at least one protestor and leaving hundreds of police officers and protestors injured. However, Union leaders condemned the violence and urged for the maintenance of peace.
Viewed as an attack on India’s sovereignty, police have built barricades, topped by concertina wire and deployed hundreds of personnel to protest sites in response.
On the 26th of March, 2021, hundreds of farmers blocked roads and railway tracks across India, affecting freight movement and resulting in cancellation of passenger trains, with the aim of shedding light on months of protests and increasing pressure to repeal the laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Government in 2020.
Although reforms present opportunity for economic growth in most cases, the crucial voice of farmers and the pivotal role of agriculture in the Indian Economy was not taken into account.
In January of 2021, India’s Supreme Court ruled to place the laws on hold “until further notice”.
Talks between Government and the Farm Union Leaders have thus failed and there is no indication of new meetings planned.