Seeds of Discontent: Why India’s Farmers are Protesting Reforms - New Canadian Media
indian farmer smiles
The farmers protest in India has gained traction internationally with the Punjabi diaspora spreading awareness and organizing rallies in support of the farmers. Photo by Varan NM from Pexels.
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Seeds of Discontent: Why India’s Farmers are Protesting Reforms

EXPLAINER: The Indian government has sought to clamp down on the nation-wide protests even going as far as arresting a 21-year-old climate activist and an 80-year-old war veteran. Why, Canadians ask.

Farmers have paralyzed India’s bustling capital of Delhi with their protests against proposed government reforms.  Since November 26, an estimated 200,000 Punjabi and Haryana farmers have marched and driven their tractors and trailers into the capital tying the city of 30 million into knots.

For more than three months, farmers have peacefully protested against a series of hastily passed agricultural laws. The government meanwhile, however, has been trying to forcefully silence the farmers through the use of riot police, baton charges, tear gas, water cannons, and indiscriminate arrests. 

So what is at the heart of this protest that at its peak spiked to an estimated 250 million strong nationwide?

Divisive farm bills

It is about three farm bills. In September of 2020, India’s BJP government rammed a series of agricultural laws through Parliament without any consultation from any of India’s farmers’ unions or organizations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to reform India’s agricultural sector through these bills that focus primarily on pricing, buying and storage of India’s agricultural output. The government claims these bills will improve farmers’ incomes. The farmers, however, are not so optimistic. They believe the laws will favour corporations and big landholders. 

The first and the most criticized bill, the Farmer’s Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020, intends to slowly eliminate the Agricultural Produce Market Committee (APMC). 

According to the government,  this bill will benefit farmers by allowing them to sell their produce to private corporations, thus giving them a bigger market and theoretically, an opportunity to earn more income.

However, farmers contend that once the private buyers enter the market, the APMC will be susceptible to being starved of agricultural suppliers thus leading to its eventual collapse. If that happens then the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system will also end. Currently, the government provides a minimum fixed price for 23 crops such as, paddy, wheat, maize, lentil, sugarcane, cotton, which are mostly grown in the regions of Punjab and Haryana. Even if the market price drops below the government price, the farmer still is able to sell his harvest at the guaranteed minimum.

With no APMC in the game, the farmer would have no choice but to go to private buyers who could then drive prices down below the previous government-set minimum benchmarks. This threatens the livelihood of small family farmers who fear being pushed out of the business altogether due to this loss of a minimum price for their crops.

Big business vs. family farms

The second bill, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020, will bind the farmer and the private buyer in a legal agreement, which would list the terms and conditions for the deal between the two parties. However, given the vast difference in legal and financial resources available to agribusiness versus the small family farmers, contractual disputes are likely to be settled in favour of the buyers versus the sellers.

The final bill, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020, makes it legal for the buyers to stockpile the crops not listed under the essential goods and services list. The farmers say that this will lead to hoarding and potential market manipulation of prices. 

Over the past two decades, countless agricultural experts, economists, and environmentalists with knowledge of India’s agriculture sector have commented ad nauseum that the country’s farmers need help and the sector needs reforms. Small-scale and marginal cultivators comprise about 80 per cent of the Indian farmers. Indian agriculture, which once contributed 50 per cent to the country’s GDP, has declined considerably over the past number of years to its current mark at 15 per cent. India’s land yields and productivity are among the lowest, compared to many countries in Europe, the USA and China.

Water scarcity, lack of mechanization, lack of fertilizers, policy changes and climate crisis are some of the major causes of this downfall. With the farmers themselves struggling to put food on their tables and buried under piles of debt, suicide rates among farmers and people dependent on agriculture are one of the highest causes of death in rural areas. 

The Farmers Protest has gained traction internationally with the Punjabi diaspora spreading awareness and organizing rallies in support of the farmers. The nation-wide protest within India has also drawn the participation of students, seniors, union workers, activists, and others across all parts of the country. The wide cross-section of protestors and their perseverance is making a  lasting impact on the need for reforms to uplift the Indian farmers and the agriculture industry. 

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This story has been produced under NCM’s mentoring program. Mentor: Jagdeesh Mann

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About the author

Arpan Chahal is a public relations and communications professional with experience in the administrative sector and magazine publication. She did her Master’s in Psychology which makes her innately curious to find stories behind every face. Based in Toronto, she works as a Journalist for NCM.

5 Comments

  1. Arpan, very well put across. The in-depth thought should make the concerned authorities a little more considerate towards the prevailing situation and the difficult Times the feeders of the country are facing. Must read and a very thought provoking article. God bless.

  2. The Farmers have to understand some simple things !

    GOI is bankrupt !

    They will NOT pay MSP for any crop

    The GOI staffing will be CUT by 50% in the next 5 years

    Even Internal Security like CRPF … will be CUT (Like with the Blackwater Model)

    AI and Nano will make farmers OBSOLETE as 5 nations in Africa will be able to feed the world

    All Farm Subsidies will BE CUT – by MAKING FARMING UNVIABLE

    GOI and Industrialists need land – so by MAKING FARMING UNVIABLE – large land tracts will be freed and land rates will fall

    GOI and Industrialists need WATER – (as China and Pakistan will take over KASHMIR AND SO INDIA WILL HAVE NO WATER IN THE WEST AND CHINA WILL BLOCK THE BRAHMAPUTRA IN THE EAST)

    Industry and IT and services and the Middle class trash need gazillion litres of water – which will COME BY KILLING AGRICULTURE !

    Then the GOI will use the Israelis to destroy Indian Farming by a Man made virus to kill the crops and also to kill off the farmers ( so the virus will be customised to the weedicides …etc used by the farmers)

    GOI feels FARMERS ARE A DEAD WEIGHT AND A BURDEN ! dindooohindoo

    Basically all FARMERS IN THE WORLD WILL BE OBSOLETE – But they will be absorbed – BUT IN INDIA 800 MILLION PEOPLE CANNOT BE ABSORBED

    So,if Rice is sold by FARMERS at 10/kg and the user pays Rs 100/kg,THERE IS ONLY 1 OPTION !

    ELIMINATE THE TRADERS ! They are the shopkeepers and the marketing supply chain.THERE IS NO OTHER WAY.

    If u raise the MSP for farmers ,the agri processing and retail and entertainment sector will die – and they PAY LARGE INDIRECT AND DIRECT TAXES TO THE GOI !

    QED !

  3. Linked to the Agri scam is the FCI Con Job

    The FCI Con Job

    No one knows what stock FCI is holding ! There are 2 types of stocks with FCI.1 is in FCI godowns and the 2nd is in the stomach of rodents (who are also stored in FCI godowns – as permanent residents).If all goes well,2 rats can produce 1000 rats in 30 days.But the genius of the GOI is infinite – as it plans to export rat meat – and so,it is a form of integrated storage – from integrated farming to integrated storage ! dindooohindoo

    No one knows the proximate quantity and quality of FCI Stocks – except the rats in the FCI godowns.

    So the so called prime wheat purchases by arhatiyas,is diverted to the private market and the spurious and lower grade wheat is sold to FCi as prime.The sales to the private sector is at a premium (by the arhatiyas)

    Similarly,when the PDS stocks reach the POS storage yards,the prime wheat is diverted to the private market and the 2nd grade wheat is procured from the arhatiyas and fed to the poor.It is said that the rats in the FCI godowns eat the BEST wheat and so,the Indian poor eat a grade lower than rats – but they are happy that they are getting anything at all.Perhaps it is time to feed Indians – rat meat.

    The Quality Con Job

    The poor farmers with a debt load are ripped off by the arhatiyas – in the grading system – to sell prime as offgrades.This rip off,is then,in part,transferred to the rich farmers whose offgrades are bought as prime,and the rest of the offgrades are palmed off to the FCI as prime or sold in the private markets.It is a single digit % of the FCI stocks and aggregate purchase,and the GOI neither the means nor the IQ to track it – but it is in the Billions of USD.

    The Justification of the FCI Con Job

    The GOI approves of this rip off as they say that economic value addition by the private sector is better than rats eating wheat and rice in FCI Godowns.And the tragedy is that they are right.

    Therefore rats in FCI godowns are better off than Indian farmers and Indisn consumers of wheat

    The failure of “India”

    India is a failed experiment.The Constitutional structure of India is being dismantled.The states have failed miserably on all counts.GST is proof of the fact that the GOI has reckoned after 73 years,that Indian states CANNOT manage their finances and their economies.

    Draconian Indian Terror laws and census laws is proof that the entire legal and judicial architecture of India is obsolete

    India is obsolete

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