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Indian farmers: Injustice to the hands that feed us

Is it right to kill those who feed us? Is it right to ruin the lives of those who produce our food? Is it right to be unjust to those who work hard every day? India’s

Indian farmer

Is it right to kill those who feed us? Is it right to ruin the lives of those who produce our food? Is it right to be unjust to those who work hard every day?

India’s economy is improving at a rapid rate due to industrial advancement, however agriculture still lies at its core with 60% of the Indian population contributing to the overall economy and approximately 20% of its GDP. Despite this large contribution there is also a large number of farmer suicides of around 7.4% primarily due to financial difficulties.

Starting in the summer of 2020 the Indian Government proposed 3 new bills regarding the farming industry. This was later seen to be approved by many in the Government in September 2020 and not discussed with farmer organisations which has now led to peaceful protests throughout India.

The Government claim the laws are  in the best interests of the farmers, but this is not how the farmers see them. Shortly after, farmers began their protests – starting off small within their villages; not long later after lockdown restrictions eased, they dramatically increased in size in which they headed towards the Delhi borders. Surprisingly, ages had ranged starting from the young all the way to the elderly including both men and women.

But why are these peaceful protests happening?

The 3 bills passed by the Indian Government had largely impacted farmers and their families with many farmers on low incomes and some with very minimal land. The bills passed are The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act, The Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, and The Essential Commodities Act. But what do these bills really mean?

The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act

The first bill passed is The Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act. This can also be viewed as the promotion and facilitation act. This act which essentially removes any Government subsidies and minimum support price (MSP). The MSP is the minimum price guaranteed to farmers for their crops which is seen through the mandis (wholesale agricultural markets), – this benefited many farmers as it provided them with support and a form of security. The Government subsidy is a grant provided to aid supply of products. The removal of Government subsidies means many farmers may struggle to produce in large quantities. Further with this act the Government allows farmers and private corporations to agree on a contract. This may seem to benefit farmers, but this really does not. But why? Imagine a farmer who has minimum education but needs read, understand and sign a contract. This exposes the farmer to the risk exploitation.

The Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act

The second law passed is The Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, also seen as the empowerment and protection act. This again provides farmers with no legal support from places with higher power such as courts because disputes between farmers and private corporations will most likely go against farmers. This is largely due to money – legal costs are expensive and farmers can’t afford to go to court. An alternative to courts – which is a high cost for low-income farmers – would be to contact local Government officials – although this is also risky for the farmer.  There is a potential risk of private corporations being favoured as some farmers in India are seen to be in debt of thousands of Indian rupees. Therefore, will be viewed as unreliable as they are unable to pay their debts.

The Essential Commodities Act

The final act passed is The Essential Commodities Act. This allows any individual to store an endless quantity of goods. This is an obvious issue as farmers may not have the facilities to store such large quantities compared to large corporations. This is because corporations may bulk buy in large quantities for the future which leaves farmers disadvantaged for the next season as it is unlikely for corporations to buy again as they have enough supply available – farmers will be able to little as they are likely to be restricted in contracts with these corporations. This clearly has huge impacts on farmers and families where income is a core issue.

These laws have been disputed by hundreds of thousands of individuals in India as well as around the world. This is due to the impacts on many lives, as known many farmer deaths are due to suicide. This is primarily due to debts which farmers are unable to pay for assorted reasons such as crops not selling or growing as expected. One can only imagine surging suicides rates as farmers are at a greater risk of being exploited with many completely against what has been passed. Why should we allow families suffer this way?

Farmers may sign contracts with business in hope of being better off but instead be exploited. This is because some farmers will lack adequate education as there was little emphasis placed previously as opposed to the younger generations. Consequently, leading to farmers lacking knowledge of what they are signing, inevitably leading to exploitation. Imagine working hard all day through extreme weather – cold to hot days so that you can provide for your family at home. As well as provide many individuals all around the world with food at their table.

Many farmers work extremely hard to provide food for everyone around the world as well as making sure their crops grow well in order to earn an income. But suddenly, your arduous work may be exploited in which you receive a smaller amount of money than before. With reduced income and lack of security from the Government you are aware you need to provide your family with food, take care of medical bills – healthcare is not free in India unlike the UK and individuals are required to pay school fees for their children every year so they can have a secure future. How would you feel?

What forces a farmer to take their life?

For many years, farmers have endlessly worked hard to provide stability and security for themselves and their families. Where does suicide start from? Cost of chemicals? Cost of seeds? Cost of agricultural equipment? Cost of labour? Outstanding loan balance? Water crisis? Climate change? There are infinite reasons as to why farmers decide to take their life depending on their situation. Each year farmers start afresh by preparing their land for the season to grow their crops. Apart from buying seeds and chemicals farmers also need to make sure their machinery such as tractors and combine harvesters are in good condition in order to farm but this is expensive to maintain. Due to heavy costs accumulating over a period, farmers financial difficulties may lead to suicide. Imagine losing a loved knowing they worked arduously – how would you feel?

Not only farmers will be exploited but consumers buying produce may be exploited. This is because the rates of produce will increase as business have a profit incentive leading to some consumers being less able to buy these products as increasing prices effects other costs, they are required to cover such as education and healthcare. Consequently, leading to less finance available to cover any outstanding debts. Moreover, large corporations will have greater spending power, who are likely to drive costs down, forcing farmers to sell their commodities more cheaply.

But how does this affect non-farming households in and around India? Well, this affects everyone regardless of them having any direct connection to farming or not as we are all connected to farmers through the food, they provide us with.

Is it right to kill those who feed us? Is it right to ruin the lives of those who produce our food? Is it right to be unjust to those who work hard every day?

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