International Implications of India’s Farm Laws

This is a death warrant for small and marginalised farmers. This is aimed at destroying them by handing over agriculture and market to the big corporates. They want to snatch away our land. But we will not let them do this.
– Sukhdev Singh Kokri, a farmer

The Indian Farms Reforms of 2020 that refer to the Agricultural Bills passed September 2020 will have major long term international implications. The three new laws aim to deregulate Indian agriculture, by encouraging farmers to sell directly to companies. The current Indian Government which is keen to increase FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) is encouraging the corporate sector through these laws to enter the farming sector that will drive small farmers out of their ancestral occupation. The laws are worded in favour of big money and corporate farming. The Indian government has a slogan of ‘Make in India’.

These laws are likely to be an experiment in India and result in multinational corporations seeking similar legal frameworks and policies in other countries, pushing most small farmers out of small family holdings, which currently make 80% of farming in the world.

In the Indian farming sector, the government has long been a middleman, guaranteeing minimum prices or MSPs for some 22 main crops. The Government also provides accessible small markets called ‘mandis’. The new laws say farmers will still have price assurances, but the language is vague and open to interpretation. The farmers are nervous about losing government support. The laws favour the corporate sector, denying farmers right of access to independent courts in case of contractual disputes. The local markets are being forced out of the sector through free market forces. There was no consultation with farmers prior to them being introduced.

The reforms taken together will loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce – rules that have protected India’s farmers from the free market for decades. They also allow private buyers to hoard essential commodities for future sales, which only government-authorised agents could do earlier; and they outline rules for contract farming, where farmers tailor their production to suit a specific buyer’s demand. The protests have been the strongest in Punjab and neighbouring Haryana state, where the mandi system is strong and the productivity is high – so only the government has been able to buy that volume of produce at a set price.

Due to the lack of global media coverage and weak response from international leaders, the Indian farmer’s protests against the new reforms are not receiving the coverage they warrant, and the rest of the world is oblivious to the wider implications these reforms carry. The impacts of the reforms stretch further than the Indian farmers, who will face mass poverty due to joblessness and not receiving the financial security the Indian government currently provides through MSP. These impacts will be felt globally, through the economic devastation it will have on millions of Indians, the irreversible environmental damage that comes with large-scale farming, and the unmatched competitions these companies in India will bring to small farmers all over the globe, inevitably putting them out of business.

When one country’s citizens are anguishing in a pandemic of poverty, no other country should benefit from their suffering, but rather should provide financial aid to help them survive. While the Indian farmers soon to be at the mercy of the large-scale industrial farming will suffer as they will earn less or worse, nothing at all, others will also be impacted. India has the largest population of illiterate adults in the world, totalling an estimate of 287million in 2015 which unavoidably makes it harder for them to get work in other vocations. These new reforms are helping the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer, this is the point where the rest of the world must stand up and put a stop to it.

The environmental impact of large-scale farming is no new news, the devastation has been witnessed by all in the Amazon and been felt worldwide. The major difference between small farming and large-scale farming is the increase in use of pesticides, fertilizers and other toxic farm chemicals. These can poison fresh water, marine ecosystems, air and soil, remaining in the environment for generations. Many pesticides are suspected of disrupting the hormonal systems of people and wildlife, while fertilizer excess pollutes waterways and coral reefs.

The planet is already at breaking-point and as citizens of the world we need to start putting the planet before profit, hence fore, saying no to large-scale industrial farming despite the income it will bring to a government, and saying yes to supporting small farming. 

Large scale industrial farming in India will create more competitions for the small farmers around the world and the big companies will be able to offer cheaper prices and lager volumes that small farms cannot compete with.

ALSO READ: When The Farmer Fights Back

Across Europe small farms are disappearing as they struggle to compete with large multinational agro-businesses. They are under pressure from land grabbing, and they face serious challenges to secure public support, as they are often considered unviable and outdated. This will only get worse when India is taken over by large-scale farming producing more food at a cheaper price. Small farms in Europe and other areas of the globe, will not be able to compete and eventually will have to sell their land to survive.

You might be asking yourself why small farming is so much better for the world, both environmentally and sociologically. While the reasons are endless, the primary five would be: it promotes communities; creates jobs; improves health of the land; improves health of the people and; provides a foundation for a more resilient food system.

The worry is that India is an experiment and that the corporate farming businesses around the world are looking at how it will play out. If the Indian government succeeds in deregulating farming in India and letting corporate sector to drive out small farmers in large numbers, other countries will follow suit. What is happening in India today, will happen around the world tomorrow. It is a threat to around half a billion small farmers globally. It will affect some of the world’s poorest people and destroy the planet.  Please take action now and support petitions in support of small farmers.

Watch – ‘Modi Govt Has Sold Itself To Adani-Ambani’

Agitating farmers at Singhu border say their massive protests have brought the NDA government down on its knees and first they will bring down Haryana government in a few weeks, and later the Union government if their demands are not met.

Haryana farmers are also angry that their electoral support had been taken for granted by dynast Dushyant Chautala and Khattar government. They feel betrayed by political class as well as the media for portraying the kisan movement as Khalistani movement.

The farmers say the government has sold itself to Ambani-Adanis. They are confident that the government will have to take back the laws as the protesters are ready for a long haul.

Watch full video here:

Watch Part I Of Farmers Voice: ‘Won’t Go Back Till Laws Repealed’

Watch – ‘Won’t Go Back Till Black Laws Are Withdrawn’

LokMarg visits Singhu Border where farmers from Punjab and Haryana have been holding sit-in protest against Central Agriculture Laws. The protestors are firm in their resolve to stay put till the time Modi government withdraws the ‘black laws’. These farmers are angry over what they call “false reassurances” on MSP and farmers mandis only after prolonged protests.

There is also anger and distrust over private participation in procurement of farm yield, which they say will harm both the producer and the consumer. Some even liken the current regime to British Raj in its nonchalance toward the care and condition of the farming community

Watch Part I of the video here:

‘Govt Wants Farm Sector To Go Telecom Way’

Dr Sumit Kaur, a 24-year-old dentist from Jalandhar, Punjab, tells LokMarg why she took time off from her practice to lend her voice in favour of farmers at Singhu-Tikri border

You know why farmers are drawing increasing support from national and international groups? That’s because their fears and demands are valid. People across the social spectrum are lending support to this movement because it would completely change the way farmers have lived their lives so far. The very dialogue that the government is having now could have been held before when the Bill was being drafted.

Once farmers give in, we fear things will go from bad to worse. I am a dentist living and practising in Jalandhar (Punjab) and I took leave from work to register my voice at the protest site. I reached the Singhu Border on Delhi outskirts on the night of December 5 and protested with the Kirti Kisan Union at the site. If the protest ‘needs more teeth’ I will ensure that it happens with my voice.

We are a family of farmers and thus consider this to be a landmark moment for us. Many people are not realising what has been going on, but they will understand it when due to these laws, the prices of food items shoot up. The new laws allow stocking of essential commodities and that doesn’t bode well for the poorest of poor.

ALSO READ: ‘Not Afraid Of Police Baton Or Water Cannon’

Does the government and those who question farmers ever pause and think why people are putting their lives at risk and choosing to protest the Bills even during the pandemic? It really must mean so much to people that are choosing to come out on the streets.

A protester at Singhu border holds a placard that says farmer is the backbone of a nation

Few realise that the agriculture sector will soon go the telecom way if the government implements these laws. Like (Reliance) Jio, they will first give lucrative deals to the farmers and then when they have a solid client base, the corporates will create a monopoly to impose their will. In India the land holdings are anyway too small and large families depend on small pieces of land. If the safety net of even the MSP is taken away, where will the poor go? And at a time when most migrant labourers have returned home in wake of the pandemic and there are no jobs in sight, what can an average person do apart from farming?

I am glad so many people, including some world leaders, are supporting the farmers. They are in fact supporting the soul of India. I do feel saddened by people who are trying to tar this movement with separatism. There wasn’t a single anti-national or separatist slogan chanted during the protests and I was a witness to it. Then we have Bollywood celebrities like Kangana Ranaut who has a take on every matter. She said, “ ₹100-100 me protesters available hain.” She should watch her words.

WATCH: ‘Shoot Us In The Chest, We Won’t Turn Away’

The agricultural sector needs serious structural changes but not in the areas that the government thinks. These reforms should be disucussed with agriculture experts, senior farmer leaders and also ordinary citizens at every level.

Some critics say that the protest is untimely as the country is already reeling under the pandemic crisis. I wish to tell them: Vaccine ke bhi pehle roti chahiye. Vaccine asar kare uske liye bhi roti chahiye. (You need food before the vaccine. You need food for the vaccine to work). Everyone needs farmers in order to simply exist. It’s time the government in power and the average man learnt to respect farmers. They are the backbone of this beautiful country!

Dr Sumit Kaur at the protest site on Delhi border

Watch – ‘We Haven’t Heard Of Farm Laws Or Protests’

Farmers of Punjab and Haryana have intensified their protests against Central Agri Laws and are camping at various protests sites on Delhi border. However, scores of small farmers in neighbouring Uttar Pradesh have little knowledge of either the new Central laws or the ongoing protests, even though they say that farming is a non-profitable occupation and payments from the crop-buyers are erratic and below MSP.

These farmers complain of dwindling incomes but have no solution in sight for their hardships. Clearly, farmer leaders have failed to communicate their agenda to a broader spectrum of farming community.

Watch the full video here:

‘We Are Prepared To Die, Let Govt Test Our Mettle’

Digambar Singh, a farmer from Bhadana, Punjab, says Narendra Modi machinery underestimated their resolve in putting up a brave fight against Central laws

Iss bar to aar-par ki ladai hai (It is a do or die situation this time). Just how much can the farmer bear? Some things are better left out of the purview of corporates. We are sons of the soil and we understand the land and its needs much better than corporates. The land we till is our mother, and not a profit making machine, even though we all like to earn well.

When I set out from Bhadana (Punjab) to reach Delhi for protest against the Central Agriculture Laws, I was sad to see that midway in Haryana, the roads had been dug overnight so that we couldn’t reach the protest sites. Heavy concrete barricades had also been placed to block us. Farmers were also being badmouthed. Tear gas, water cannons, lathicharge… but our resolve was firm. Nothing is going to stop us this time.

The government says the various laws are for our benefit and will open up bigger and better markets for us. But if I am a farmer who grows his crops in Punjab, should I go and check out the bigger, better markets in, say, Karnataka or should I be busy sowing the crops? There is already a system in place (adhatiyas) for purchase of our crops and the farmers have been reaping its benefits because of a guaranteed MSP.

ALSO READ: ‘A Farmer Isn’t Afraid Of Police Baton, Water Cannon’

Digambar Singh with fellow protesters at UP Gate protest site

Why try fix a thing that isn’t broken in the first place? You may improve on the existing processes but why do a complete overhaul and that too without proper dialogue with the parties concerned. Farming requires groundwork but the new laws are silent on MSP.

At present I am at the UP Gate (Delhi-UP Ghazipur border) with fellow farmers to register my protest and if the government is going to ignore our voice, then we will also ignore their voice during elections. Fir satta se bahar jane ki taiyari kar lein wo (They better be prepared to stay out of power in that case). Farmers across the country have been committing suicide for many years now and this year the Coronavirus has wreaked a deadly blow to our income. This is the time to protect farmers and let them know they are valued.

The nights here are cold, but we are well-prepared. We have brought rations to last us for a few days and we have also brought bhattis along to cook the food. Let’s see for how long we will need to protest. Sometimes you have to muster up all the strength you have to survive. We are not scared of Coronavirus even though we are taking all necessary precautions.

Our kids have lost precious study time, as rural households don’t have easy access to online learning. Our old parents are suffering. I hear the hospitals are in bad shape due to the pandemic pressure. Par jab marna hi hai to kyu na ladte mara jaye (But if we are destined to die, we shall put up a brave fight?). If the government really wants to help farmers, why not do it directly by strengthening the health and education systems in rural, agrarian zones?

WATCH: ‘Shoot Us In The Chest, We Won’t Turn Back’

Protesters have been camping at Delhi’s Ghazipur border for more than a week now

Watch – ‘Farmers Have Been Betrayed Many Times’

As farmers from Punjab, camping at Delhi-Haryana border, continue with their protests against three Central agriculture laws, the farming community in Haryana has also thrown its weight behind them. To understand the position of farmers in Haryana and Punjab, LokMarg speaks to Veerendra Singh Badkhalsa, general secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union, Haryana.

Badkhalsa says there is a trust deficit between farmers and the Centre. The farming community has little faith in the motive behind these new Central laws. Critical of politics behind the laws, he points out that laws brought in by Punjab Assembly have no new provision to safeguard farmers’ interest.

Watch the full interview here:

When The Farmer Fights Back

Iconic moments captured on camera often express a historical event which shakes the conscience of the civil society for all times to come. Captured in a fleeting flash, they remain etched in public memory: the Afghan girl, Sharbat Gula, then nameless, shot by Steve McCurry in June 1985 in a Pakistani refugee camp, celebrated on the cover of National Geographic; one thin man standing in defiance against a row of tanks at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, June 1989; earlier than that, naked children running from a napalm bomb during the Vietnam war; and Che Guevara’s dead body somewhere in a jungle in Bolivia, shot dead by CIA mercenaries.

In contemporary India, as thousands of farmers wait steadfastly at the Delhi-Haryana-UP borders, deciding their next move, some images have already captured the imagination: A dignified old Sikh farmer, totally non-violent, with flowing white beard, in a white kurta -pyjama and jacket, being threatened by a young, wiry cop, belligerent, aggressive and remorseless, his fingers clenched around a rod, his body tensed up with machismo and power.

There are other iconic images too of the struggle:  a young protester jumping from a trolley to a police water cannon vehicle, switching off the tap showering dirty water on a cold day on farmers, and jumping back. (He and his father have reportedly been charged now for murder)

Many endearing moments have arrived yet again: women and men cooking in community kitchens on the highway; women driving a convoy of tractors in protest; and farmers giving food and water to grateful cops.

The last image would have been appreciated by the likes of Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi. This is because the cops, many of them children of hardworking farmers from humble rural backgrounds, had earlier gone all out against the peaceful protesters. They had drenched them with water, in this cold, teargassed them, threatened them with lathis, dug medieval war-like trenches, brought in iron barricades, sand and mud trucks, huge cement slabs, sand bag walls, ship containers, barbed wires, and an endless row of cops in full gear, ready to charge.

REFERENCE POINT: Making Sense Of Central Farm Laws

The farmers have been protesting in Punjab and Haryana since September. November 26 was a national protest day organized jointly by farmer organisations and trade unions against the labour laws being unilaterally enacted by the Centre despite the economic collapse and mass unemployment of millions in the organized and informal sector. These might include draconian provisions like hire and fire, 12 hours work, mass sackings, major changes in pro-worker acts like the Inter-state Migrant Workers Act, Contract Workers Act, the Factories Act, the Industrial Disputes Act, etc, and changes in wages, safety and compensation, while contractors will be calling the shots with no regulations. These trade unions are also opposing unbridled privatisation of the public sector, including banks, railways and airports, whereby certain favoured industrialists of the ruling regime in Delhi are being brazenly backed.

Significantly, there are more than 250 farmers’ organization in the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee, and they actually joined hands with the workers on November 26 all over the country, including in West Bengal and South India. The farmers march to Delhi from Punjab and Haryana, and also other Hindi heartland states like Uttarakhand, UP and Rajasthan, however, became the epicenter of this mass uprising, and it is not going to die down so soon.

Police used water cannons on protesting farmers

The question is, why the government is so adamant after pushing the three farm bills in Parliament without consensus? Why is it refusing to make the MSP a law? And why is it so rigidly refusing to budge, to negotiate with flexibility, using strong-arm tactics? What is that unsurmountable, one-dimensional pressure on the Narendra Modi regime that it is ready to alienate farmers, while choosing to block, barricade and brutalise them?

“The BJP government is toeing the line of corporate cronies,” said Vijoo Krishnan, speaking to Lokmarg. He is a top leader of the Left-led All India Kisan Sabha, which led the massive long march of farmers to Mumbai. “The intention of this government is total corporatization of Indian agriculture. But the resistance is unprecedented. Except for the BJP and RSS unions, all other workers and farmers’ unions have joined this resistance. Even state governments like Punjab and Rajasthan are exercising their federal rights in support of the farmers. Kerala has declared MSP for 16 agricultural products, and has protected the farmers during and after the lockdown. Besides, it is providing food to 90 lakh people, including ‘guest workers’ (migrant workers).”

Farmer leader J Hooda from Shamli, Western UP, speaking to Lokmarg at the UP-Delhi barricades, said: “The farmers have always known their sinister motives – to sell our land and agriculture to corporates. Modi is doing precisely that to favour his favourite industrialists. Now the farmers are not going to relent. Drop the farm bills. Make a new law on MSP.”

Hooda says the farmer makes huge losses in the open market, because it is based on market whims, unscrupulous private players and demand and supply ratio. Often, distress sale becomes a norm. Without government support in states, or a central MSP, farmers will be doomed. “They want to abolish local mandis. So where will we go to sell our produce – can we compete in the international market with massive, mechanized farming and huge multinational farmer lobbies? Why are they pushing us into the hands of unethical corporates who are now trying to capture Indian agriculture through the backdoor backed by the BJP regime?”

Indeed, while Punjab and Haryana (with UP and MP) are the biggest producers of rice and wheat, there are 23 crops, including cereals, pulses, commercial crops, on the list. India is 80 per cent agriculture – the food chain begins at the land of the tiller and ends long distances in metros and small towns. In this complex and long chain, thousands of people are involved: farmers, entire families, landless farmers and sharecroppers, small and middle farmers, local services and ancillary networks, small markets, shopkeepers, loaders, truckers, workers, mandis, mills and factories, small scale and big industries, and others. It’s corporate and government propaganda that only 6 per cent of rich farmers are benefitting from MSP. What about the millions integrated to the entire process till the food reaches your table? ask farmers.

Argues Vijoo Krishnan: “MSP ensures at least that much for farmers if public procurement is there. In states where there is no effective public procurement, farmers get paid even below the MSP. For instance, while the MSP of paddy is around Rs 1860 per quintal in Bihar, Odisha etc, farmers are forced to sell at Rs 1000-1200 per quintal.”

ALSO READ: ‘MSP Must Be Fixed For All Crops’

Farmers are also arguing that even the MSP, based on state averages, is arbitrary. Kerala pays many times more per quintal for paddy, and the crop produce costs vary from state to state. But the government refuses to usher in serious policy changes for large scale benefits to the vast rural sector, even while pampering and subsidising big industrialists and waiving off their debts etc, while facilitating lucrative contracts for them, like the privatisation of airports and railways, or the Rafael deal.

Farmer are angry that the government is shy on implementing the comprehensive Swaminathan Commission recommendations, including the guarantee of 50 per cent more than the stated MSP, among other reforms, like compensating for land, labour, seed, pesticides, fertilisers, diesel, electricity, water, tractors, machines, and other things needed for agriculture. They are asking why the government has not returned the GST to them on all the additional things they have used for agriculture.

Indian economy is in crisis because crony capitalism by profit sharks have ravaged it with no signs of recovery during the pandemic. Now they are greedily eyeing the post-independence public sector and agriculture. If the farmers are driven to the edge, for the benefit of favoured industrialists and powerful MNCs, then there is no option left for them but to fight back. That is why, as of now, it is a do or die struggle for the thousands of defiant and non-violent farmers, now steadfast at the borders of the capital of India.

Watch – ‘Shoot Us In The Chest, We Won’t Turn Back’

Delhi Chalo protests by farmers is turning violent. The agitating farmers from Punjab appear determined to break every police barrier to reach Delhi and register their protest against Central Agriculture laws. Their chief demand is: making purchase of crops below minimum support price a punishable offence, instead of allowing corporate sector into the sector.

Women, youth, middle-aged and old from rural Punjab told LokMarg that they would prefer being shot in the chest than run away or turn their back. Calling the Central provisions as Black Laws, the protesters are unfazed by police force or water cannons deployed to bar their entry into Capital.

We apologise for the quality of the video. It was shot by the farmers themselves who are keen to tell the world of their determination. We felt it only right to get their message across. Watch the video:

Watch – ‘MSP Must Be Fixed For All Crops, Not Just Paddy, Wheat’

LokMarg speaks to Gurvinder Singh Koom Kalan, state secretary of Bharatiya Kisan Union (Lakhowal) to know about the impact of Punjab Assembly legislations to nullify Central Agriculture laws. Singh says while it was an unprecedented move when these state bills were passed by near-unanimous voting in the legislative assembly, there are several shortcomings in them.

Foremost, the farmers were demanding MSPs to be ensured for all crops, be it mustard, lentils or cotton, and the state government has only included wheat and paddy crops in their laws. For these and other reasons, Singh says farmers will continue their protest against “black laws” to adversely affect farmers.

Watch his interview here: