PSAC stands in solidarity with the millions of farmers and workers in India that have stood up to Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s attempt to privatize and deregulate the agricultural economy, which provides a livelihood for over half of the country’s 1.3 billion people.
Three farm privatization bills were passed in September on the heels of an earlier change to the Electricity Act that ended subsidized rates for farmers and citizens living below the poverty line. The bills were rammed through parliament at a time when restrictions around the COVID-19 pandemic prevented all forms of meetings, discussions and protests on these legislative initiatives.
The government claims the farm bills provide farmers with greater access to markets, but in reality they open the door to big agribusiness that threatens the livelihood of millions who depend on agriculture for their survival. They remove the few price controls and subsidies provided by federal and local governments that guarantee fair prices for farmers, including small merchants, and protects them from exploitation from speculators and middlemen. They further open the door to land grabs and facilitate the emergence of a cartel that could control Indian’s world leading grain production. Moreover, the removal of taxes will further reduce the ability to provide key services to communities – particularly in those states whose tax revenue depends on the agricultural sector.
The protests that began in the agriculture-rich states of Punjab and Haryana in August spread across the country and have grown into one of the largest social movements in history. Farmers already facing devastating losses due to climate change, locust invasions and crippling debt, were joined by agricultural workers, migrants, local tribes, and women — who have become an overwhelming force in agriculture, as more men migrate to cities in search of work.
The movement, further strengthened by transportation and electrical workers, unions of urban workers, as well as social organizations across India, led to a general strike of 250 million people on November 26, 2020, followed by a farmers’ march to the capital. As of mid-December, the Modi government continues to refuse a dialogue with the representatives of the farmers and agricultural workers gathered in the streets of New Delhi asking to be heard.
PSAC stands in solidarity with India’s farmers and supports their constitutional right to protest. We call on the Indian judiciary to ensure the safety of protestors and support the demand of farmers to overturn the agricultural bills and amendments to the Electricity Act. Finally, we call on the Modi government to urgently engage in a national dialogue with the affected population.