Tens of thousands of farmers in India have been on strike since November 26, 2020, demanding repeal of recent laws that are likely to shrink their incomes.
Farmers have laid siege to India’s capital and plenty continue to pour in from Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. They have gathered to protest against agricultural reforms, which place them at the mercy of big corporations. Protests of this scale have not been witnessed in recent memory and have created a massive crisis for Modi’s government. Several labour unions and opposition members have also joined what has been termed as the “largest organized strike in India.” The future seems gloomy for India, which is already struggling to control a pandemic. The unfolding Kissan Crisis will exacerbate the current conditions until sanity prevails and the government agrees to address the farmers’ woes through dialogue.
The first group of protesteing farmers trying to enter Delhi were met with brute force, batons, and water cannons. The Indian government’s lackadaisical approach towards the issue further infuriated the farmers and led to their influx. Despite the cold weather and the spread of Covid, the farmers sought refuge in the streets of Delhi to save their livelihood. The majority have now made arrangements for food and shelter, aiming not to leave until their demands are accepted, even if the strike lasts for several months.
Agricultural reforms introduced by the Indian government in September were pushed through parliament without any debate or discussion. This attracted a lot of anger from the opposition, which views these bills as death warrants for farmers. The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 are currently at stake.
The reforms that the Indian government intends to bring about through these bills will impact prevailing rules on the sale, pricing, and storage of farm produce, allowing the free market to directly reach out to the Indian farmers previously protected by government regulations.