On January 30, India’s government carried out another measure to silence the protests of its farmers by cutting mobile internet services where they have gathered in Singhu, Ghazipur and Tikri. Tens of thousands of Indian farmers have been protesting for almost two months against three laws that loosen regulations previously made to protect farmers’ livelihood. The interior ministry had stated on January 30 that internet services would be cut until 23:00 on the 31st “in the interest of maintaining public safety and averting public emergency,” but they remained blocked after the weekend with a new timeline for reopening access to the affected districts.
This measure was used following police attacks on the protesters. It is likely used to stop information of the protests from spreading so they will lose support and to intimidate the protestors into giving up on the protests. This isn’t the first time India’s government has cut off internet access purposefully. India’s government has cut off internet access to Kashmir for months at a time in 2019, giving the country the highest number of state-ordered internet blackouts that year.
Taking control over the media and free speech of citizens via the internet is undemocratic and cruel. It is unsurprising that this tactic is used against the farmers whose large scale protests are garnering international attention and support. Clashes had broken out a couple of days prior leading to both the farmers and police being hurt by unidentified individuals. The farmers have been withstanding harm from the police and unidentified groups using weapons while protesting against the new regulations in place.
More than half of India’s population is employed in its agriculture sector, but this sector makes up for around one-sixth of the country’s GDP. The three laws will affect the pricing, sale, and storage of agricultural products, and the farmers’ are concerned with how these laws will play out. These laws will allow for a national network to form where farmers can sell products to private buyers who can hold the products for future sales. Originally, this could only be done by government-sanctioned organizations, and on a small scale, but farmers rightfully fear that after forming strong networks with private buyers, who will purchase their goods at a higher price than the government, they will become reliant on private buyers, as public organizations close up, who will exploit them.
This fear is not unfounded, and since their livelihood is on the line, it is understandable that the farmers are critical of these laws that could lead to negative long term effects. India’s government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have failed to address the farmers’ fears and will have to properly address these concerns about their livelihood in order to end this deadlock between the farmers and the government.
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