By: Rumnik K Ghuman
Exactly a year ago, Narendra Modi’s government with little public or parliamentary debate, passed three farmer bills. According to them, these bills are a gift to the farmers, but in reality, the bills are a gift for the rich agribusinesses in India. The majority of the population in Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan are farmers, they make their entire income based on their produce. Some call the farmers ‘India’s Food Soldiers’ and many people have shown support to the farmers.
The first bill that was released was The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce(Promotion and Facilitation) Act. This act allows the farmers to produce and have free trade outside the physical premises of the specific markets under the APMC Act (Agricultural Produce Marketing Committee law). Under this act, the specific markets that the government has listed are agribusiness typhoons. These businesses are only going to set the price at a low rate so it’s cheaper for them. This act is in their favor because the farmers will not be able to go somewhere else to sell so they have to agree to the price the agribusiness sets. This puts the farmers in a low position to control their own products.
The second bill that was passed was the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act that made the decision to remove some items such as cereals and pulses from the list of essential commodities. This act was passed to attract foreign direct investment to the sector. This bill is limiting the number of items farmers can produce and sell. Certain states can only produce certain items based on the weather and the field the farmers have. This puts the farmers at a disadvantage when producing and won’t make as much money as they would normally.
The third bill was regarding the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act. This bill states to have a nationwide price limitation on all produces. This act doesn’t give farmers any empowerment over their produces which is putting them at a disadvantage. Combining all of these acts together, puts all farmers at a disadvantage, to not have a free trade market for them, price points that are lower than normal, and limited items to sell. The agribusinesses have connections in the government which is why the agribusinesses have more control over the price and are the only buyers that the farmers can sell to.
In August 2020, many farmers from the States of Punjab and Haryana gather to protest in the capital, Delhi. The farmers had seen that one bill was passed and they needed to stop for more to be released as in Haryana, these laws were issued as of August. September was when the government passed the Farmers Produce Trade and Commission Act, which put more fire into the farmers to get justice by removing these bills. Many farmers across the country were angry and had to show it somehow as the news was not covering the farmers’ protest in the capital because the news channels were owned by the agribusinesses or the government. So some farmers set their own fields on fire, marched to government offices, or protested at the capital.
At first, the crowd of farmers was much smaller, so the government brushed it aside. It wasn’t until on November 23, 2020, when protesters march from around India toward Delhi. Once they reached the edge of the city on November 26, the protesters met a large group of police officers who used tear gas, water cannons, and physical force to keep them from entering the city. Over the entire year, over 1000 deaths have happened whether that be by the cold weather or by protestors hanging themselves. A majority of the population were elder men that have been farming for all of their life and don’t know another way to provide an income for their families. In Punjab, farmers have always had a hard time making an income as they don’t have much money to afford the necessities to run the field correctly. They take big loans to buy a tractor, but later can pay it off and then hang themselves.
There have been big protests, but 360 Magazine feels the number of people from different religions, states, ages, and genders who came out to support the frontlines of the capital is unbelievable. The men were already fighting for their rights, but the women have been standing like hard rock with them. The women at the border are providing food and protesting as well. It’s amazing to see all come together to roll back new agricultural laws. Multiple women and kids have been injured during the violent behavior of the police but they still come back or stay to support.
As many people from Punjab and Haryana reside in England, the United States, and Canada, the protestors sitting in the cold, were getting worldwide support. Even though these supporters are not in India to help physically, they showed their support by organizing protests in their cities, doing marches to bring more awareness, sharing on social media about what’s going on, and donating or sending money to their families back home to go provide food for the protestors as it was freezing at the start of the protest. Many other industry workers in India went on strike as well to show they are with the farmers.
Punjab is known for its music and their music really reaches a higher population. It was the only way to show to the world this is the reality of the protest which the news channels were not recording nor reporting to the world. So many Punjabi singers came together to make a ‘Kisaan Anthem’(Kisaan means farmers in Punjabi) that tells and shows every detail of the protest with live footage. Multiple Punjabi singers personally came and served the protestors, sat with the protesters, and tried their hardest to talk to official officers to get these laws rolled away.
As we are speaking about the Farmers’ Protest, it is still going on and it’s been exactly a year since it started. The government has been pressured to speak about the bills in the parliament and hopefully will take the bills back. No Farmers No Food.