Since the beginning of August 2020, Indian farmers’ protests have been going on for more than half a year, and their participation has become wider and wider. Some Indian media said that as many as 250 million farmers participated in the protest!
The fuse that triggered the protests was that the Modi government promulgated three agricultural decrees in June 2020, and they passed the parliament into bills in September.
Agriculture accounts for 15% of India’s total output value, but nearly 70% of India’s more than 1.3 billion people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture. Since the beginning of market-oriented reforms in the 1990s, India’s agriculture has suffered a huge impact, and farmers’ suicides due to poverty have also been reported frequently. In order to solve the problem of peasants’ poverty, in recent years, there have been voices of “turning farmers into businessmen” in India.
India’s current agricultural sales channels are strictly controlled. According to regulations, the agricultural products of Indian farmers must first be sold to the “big market” (Mandi) established in accordance with the regulations of the various states; middlemen who obtain government licenses in the big market must abide by government regulations to purchase agricultural and livestock products, and must not exploit farmers. Certain agricultural products cannot be stockpiled. These regulations were taken in the 1960s and 1970s to ensure the interests of the people and avoid famine. But some people now believe that it hinders the development of agriculture in India. Not only do farmers have no freedom to trade, but agricultural products between states cannot be exchanged smoothly.
The three laws introduced by the Modi government are to break this restriction. Simply put, these three bills separately stipulate that the requirement to sell in the “big market” is abolished. Farmers can buy and sell freely or continue to sell in the “big market”; purchasers are no longer restricted from hoarding agricultural products; farmers and agricultural companies can Direct transactions without going through the middleman.
These are radical reform measures and are in line with the habits of the Modi government. In September 2020, Modi also appeared on the All India Radio Station. He gave a vivid example of two farmers who sold fruits and potatoes directly to big companies and supermarkets despite the dissuasion of their family members and did not go through an intermediary. The result was a big success.
However, most farmers think differently from Modi. They believe that although in the “big market” system, intermediaries will also charge fees, they can be immune from the impact when market prices fluctuate sharply; if large companies and farmers are allowed to trade directly, they will lower prices, and they prefer and are more developed, With convenient transportation and large-scale agricultural dealings, the situation will be even worse for farmers whose land is more remote and scattered.
Therefore, Modi thought he gave the farmers a key to becoming rich, but the farmers thought that he pierced the farmers with a knife. In the states of Punjab and Haryana, which are known as “granaries” in northern India, farmers first took action, first holding demonstrations in the local area, and then starting the “Magazine to Delhi” operation two months later. Later, farmers across the country drove their tractors to the capital and clashed with the police, causing casualties.
The government proposed to suspend the implementation of the three bills, and the farmers refused; the government proposed to amend these bills, but the farmers refused; the court made a judgment in their favor, and the farmers also refused. Their goal is only one: to completely abolish these three bills.
Why are Indian farmers so decisive? Although some officials claim that farmers have been deceived by the left and even have “mysterious foreign forces” behind them, these conspiracy theories cannot conceal the fact that hundreds of millions of farmers have their own judgments when facing the interests of their own survival. And this judgment is different from that of the Modi government and the ruling party.
This large-scale protest also raised a question worth pondering: Is it the strength and greed of the big companies that have caused the disadvantaged farmers to stand up to defend their most basic interests, or are the farmers lacking foresight and prefer to enjoy low-level protection? Don’t want to take risks to enjoy freedom? If they really don’t want to take this risk, should policymakers force them to enjoy freedom for the sake of the country’s GDP?