Throughout the last few months, there has been little mention of the huge protests happening in India. However, in the last couple of weeks, the protests are suddenly being noticed on social media, and are subsequently getting more news time. But what are the farmers protests? And why are they happening?
What are the protests?
The protests are being done by farmers from across India. They were started mainly by people from the Indian state of Punjab, and then as they have continued, people from other states such as Haryana and Uttar Pradesh have joined the protests.
More than half of India’s population are farmers, even though agriculture only contributes to a sixth of the country’s domestic product (the total monetary or market value of all the finished goods and services within a country’s borders in a specific time period). The farmers are protesting a change in legislation that was attempted to be introduced late last year.
Why are they protesting?
In September 2020, the Indian government tried to introduce the 3 Farm Acts. These were as follows: The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Darm Services Act, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act.
The government are reassuring farmers that the acts won’t negatively affect them and that they’re being ‘lied to’ by anyone who says otherwise, begging the farmers to not have misconceptions about the new acts.
However, the farmers feel that the acts are ‘corporate-friendly and anti-farmer’, they feel that the acts will hurt their earnings by adding expenses, and there is a distrust in the government following a refusal to incorporate the Minimum Support Price (MSP) in the reforms. This would mean that the farmers would be guaranteed a certain level of money for their work/products.
The laws themselves allow farmers to sell their produce outside the agricultural produce markets, do contract farming and market their produce freely and removes grains, pulses, oil and onion from the essential list, freeing the trade of them.
Whilst these sound like positive reforms, the farmers are often small scale and have reasonably low incomes, they don’t have the means to trade outside of their district, and it would add to their expenses. The general opinion is that the farm acts will raise crop pricing, and eventually, the MSP will be scrapped entirely, and private corporations will come in as competition, dwindling the money available to the farmers and making them vulnerable.
What effects are the protests having?
The protests are already doing some good – the Supreme Court of India has arranged a committee to discuss the laws, and have suspended the implementation of them.
However, the protests are also causing conflict. Many celebrities and politicians from around the world are sharing support for the farmers – like Greta Thunberg and Rhianna, for example. Counter-protests have launched, wherein they are burning effigies of the stars, particularly Greta Thunberg, who shared a protesting toolkit online. The counter-protestors are adamant that international intervention in Indian happenings will not be tolerated. These are being further supported by Indian officials who are calling such outburst of support for the farmers’ protests inappropriate.
Since Greta’s intervention online, many people have come back at her to ask her to quietly sit aside and out of other countries’ business. This includes a lengthy letter from a UN Sustainable Energy expert, Mohinder Gulati. In his note to the young activist, he commends her for the work she is doing on climate change, but then goes on to say that she is not educated enough to partake in a dialogue on this topic. He talks through the legislative changes of the last few years, the ‘justified’ feelings of the farmers, but ultimately concludes that the protests should be a discussion not a demonstration.
What are the effects internationally?
For us back in the UK, the effects are not vast. However, we do have a large Punjab population. Many of whom have close ties to back home and feel strongly about what is happening over in India. Because of this, 100s of MPs from different parties are urging Prime Minister Johnson to take some sort of action about these protests – even if that is just starting a dialogue with Indian officials.
Who is talking about this?
The most popular people discussing this are Rhianna, Greta Thunberg, and Mia Khalifa. However, all over Instagram and Twitter, people are trying to get this into the public eye as much as possible.
— Rihanna (@rihanna) February 2, 2021