The Revolt of India's Farmers
Updated: Dec 7, 2020
India's farmers are in revolt against the recently imposed laws that would loosen rules around the sale, pricing, and storage of farm produce that protected India's farmers for decades.
The new laws allow private buyers to hoard essential commodities for future sales and dictate farmers their production choice.
Most farmers in India currently sell their products at government-controlled wholesale markets at assured prices. Committees comprising farmers run these markets called Mandis.
Initially, the private buyers may offer a better price than the markets where farmers sell their products at present. But gradually, depending on their return rate, the private buyers will determine the value and the products they buy. The farmers also fear that the government policy would force many farmers to sell their land to big corporations.
Farmers are suspicious of government policies. Modi government's close relations with big corporations are the leading cause of the suspicion. Farmers feel that it is an effort to marginalize them and make them dependents on big corporations to change their farming style they have practiced for centuries.
Economists suggest that this policy would help farmers in the longer run. Still, the government is not ready to give a written assurance that the current market system will continue to coexist, and farmers will be autonomous to choose what they deem suitable for their land and conditions.
India has an arable land area of 394.6 million acres, and it is the second-largest in the world, after the United States. Its gross irrigated crop area of 215.6 million acres is the largest in the world.
India has 16.6 million farmers and 131,000 traders. The sale of tractors in the country stood at 804,000 units in 2019, with the export of 80,475 units.
India exports Basmati Rice, Fresh Vegetables, Groundnut, Fresh Fruits, Processed Fruits & Juices, Cereal Preparations, , Alcoholic Beverages, Processed Vegetables, Dairy Products, Pulses, Cocoa Products, Sheep/Goat Meat, Poultry Products, Fruits / Vegetable Seeds, Wheat, Animal Casings, Processed Meat and Beef.
Exports of Agricultural Products in India averaged 84.6 Billion Indian Rupees from 1991 until 2020. The export value of beef products is about $6 billion a year, and the goat and sheep meat is $95 million.
The Indian corporate world is aware of agricultural and other farm-related products' export potential and believes that it can multiply its profits by controlling the farmers and their production. In this corporate led-push, the BJP-led government sees an opportunity to increase its foreign reserves and rule the world food market. Most of India's corporate world is ideologically in tune with the Hindutva group, the RSS. India's export is also through the RSS operatives in different countries.
Will this help small and medium farmers? The people working in the agricultural sector are not convinced. They see in the government push a sinister scheme to force them to sell their land and become dependent on corporations to determine what they produce and what they eat. Agriculture employs more than 50℅ of the Indian workforce and contributed 20% to the country's GDP. The entry of the corporate world, as estimated by economists, may increase the production and consolidate small landholdings into big farms. Still, it would cause massive unemployment in rural areas pushing people to migrate to the already saturated urban centers.
The farmers' revolt in India is for their survival. It's a peaceful uprising with severe implications for the future of the country. The outcome will determine the direction of the country. Will it be a people's democracy, or will it be under the control of corporations who do not see anything beyond their profits.