Why are farmers protesting the new bills?
Passed in 2019, the three new controversial bills have been promoted to “improve farm incomes, attract investments, technology and increase productivity” by the pro-reform economists. The farmers disagreed, claiming the bills were a “death warrant” and “unfair and exploitative.”
Farming in India is a market riddled with sinkholes and uncertainty. Indian farmers have dealt with years of poor rainfall, low crop prices, dwindling access to formal credit and high indebtedness. Even though more than half of India’s population are farmers only a sixth of the country’s GDP comes from agriculture. This means farmers living ‘well’ with the current legislations are barely surviving in what has been termed the “worse agrarian crisis” in decades. As a result, more than 10,000 farmer suicides were reported in 2019.
With over-worked scorched hands and exhausted backs, the farmers of India are tired of living in an abused system. Alongside their appeal to protest the new bills, they have established a list of their own requests. Their terms, amongst others, include a repeal of the farm laws, assurance conventional procurement system will remain, cutting diesel prices for agriculture use by 50% and withdrawal of all cases against and release of farmer leaders. These terms will ensure generations of farmers are adequately protected and supported.
The new legislation would loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage and allow farmers to trade with private buyers directly. But the Indian farmers are reluctant to work with a climate that leaves them vulnerable to private buyers and removes the little control they have.
A food and trade policy analyst, Devinder Sharma, stated, “The anger over injustice to farmers was brewing. Now it’s getting channelised through this protest against the new laws,” continuing “Leaving farmers to the tyranny of the markets would be akin to putting the sheep before the wolf. There are leakages in the current system, and it needs to be reformed, but replacing one failed model with another is not the solution.”