Since September last year, India is witnessing the largest, sustained protest ever in human history. There is a lot of noise around these protests but not sufficient coverage especially in the Western World. Let’s take a few minutes to learn what is going on and why.
THE 3 FARM BILLS
On 5th June, 2020, three Farm Bills were introduced in the Indian Parliament and passed into Act in the month of September. The bills create an open and unregulated market for agricultural produce across the country, allow the use of hoarding by corporations and in cases of dispute, eliminate any legal recourse for the farmers. The bills were introduced during the peak of COVID-19 in India and by skipping due parliamentary debate required of democratic administrations. No farming unions were consulted for framing of the laws either raising serious questions as to the intentions of the Government.
The farmers are aware that the bills are designed to aid corporate monopoly of the entire food production and processing pipeline. The biggest beneficiaries from the bills are the Adani Group and Reliance Industries the CEOs of which are the richest people in India worth hundreds of billions of dollars. To deny hundreds of millions of people in a free democratic country, the right to seek justice through courts of law is unthinkable. These laws give one company total control of the economic wellbeing of millions of people. This is nothing short of slavery and worse than communism. The nation is on the path to autocracy.
Starting September, farmers from Punjab and Haryana have vehemently opposed against the bills, asking the Government to withdraw them with immediate effect. After 2 months of opposition falling on deaf ears, on November 26th, 2020, the farmers finally started marching towards the capital New Delhi. Inspired by these farmers from Punjab, farmers across the entire nation have joined the protests, now making it a national movement.
PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND PROTEST
Since the beginning, the protests have been met with stiff resistance from the Police and the Government. Their paths were blocked with barricades, tear gas and water cannons were directed at them, they were hit with batons and public property destroyed by the police by digging up national highways. All this to citizens of the country including men and women, children and old people peacefully exercising their democratic rights. This is a violation of basic human rights as well as the fundamental rights guaranteed in the Constitution. Where the police obstructed their way and beat up the people, the farmers served them with langar (meals). When the Central Government failed to prevent the farmers from reaching Delhi, they started labelling the protestors as anti-nationals, Naxalites and terrorists and the national media jumped at amplifying the rhetoric. All of this without any evidence.
Till date the farmer leaders have had 11 rounds of discussions with the Government, but the Government with its lack of apathy refuses to budge. Since November 26, 2020, the farmers have been camped at the borders of Delhi sleeping in their trolleys or on the road. During one of the coldest winters in 70 years, over 200 have died already, many of them committing suicide, 123 are missing and 120 in prison for daring to voice their frustrations. However, despite the severe circumstances the farmers continue to persist. Motivated by their Sikh brethren, the numbers have started to swell as hundreds of thousands from Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Kerala and other states are joining them at more and more protest sites. Some say the revolution has only just begun.
RISE OF POVERTY AND FASCISM IN THE INDIAN NATION
India has slipped on all major metrics of democracy and economic development over the last 7 years. In democratic governance, it has slipped from #27 to #53, in journalistic freedom down to #142 of 180 countries, in GDP, in access to healthcare, rise of unemployment. In a country of nearly 1.4 billion people, where about 58% of the population relies directly upon agriculture as a means of livelihood, the introduction of the 3 farm bills is expected to further impoverish nearly 800 million people, that’s almost 2.5 X the population of the United States. The consequences of this will be devastating. From increased suicide rates domestically to increased illegal immigration, the impact is expected to reach much beyond the Indian borders.
The 3 Farm Bills introduced by the Government can be found here:
A layman's explanation of the 3 bills is available in 6 different languages in the following videos below:
A detailed whitepaper on the farm bills including comparison with agriculture in the US can be found here: https://nishkam.tv/2020/12/30/whitepaper/
This whitepaper discusses the effects of similar corporatization of agriculture in the US and the impacts that has had in the decline of family-owned agricultural farms over the decades.