Why Punjabi Farmers Are Protesting And Why This Requires Your Attention

The Indian Parliament passed three agricultural bills in September 2020. This bill allows farmers to sell their produce to markets outside of government-controlled markets such as APMC. While this does give them more options, the bill does not specify details that could affect the transaction. Missing details include a minimum support price (MSP) that ensures farmers receive fair prices for their goods. The law also does not state that written contracts are mandatory, making it difficult to testify against the buyer if there are breaches in the contract. Furthermore, buyers can purchase products in larger quantities, posing a problem because markets can take advantage of high inflation. These consequences are a concern, especially during the pandemic. This is because many of the privatized buyers are larger corporations that will likely exploit farmers. 

Over 60 per cent of jobs in India are within the agricultural industry. The majority of Punjab farmers are Sikhs that depend on cultivation for their livelihood. Punjab provides over 20 per cent of wheat and nine per cent of rice in India. This number equates to three per cent of the global production of these crops internationally. Punjab provides a significant amount of crops nationally and globally. Therefore, these statistics assert the importance of Punjabs farmland and its impact. Farming is considered a historical and cultural activity that has deep roots in the Sikh community. This is evident as Sikh soldier Banda Singh Bahadur had eliminated the Zamindari system. This system instilled policies that were strictly advantageous for large landlords. This law did not provide any benefit for the people who farmed the land. Therefore, the elimination of this system allowed cultivators to own the land. Therefore, the implementation of fair and just practices is a religious teaching that is emphasized in Sikhism. Thus, it is essential to ensure that everyone receives fair wages for their earnings. 

This bill has caused increased anxiety and fear for farmers. The rise of perturbation is due to concerns related to bargaining power. People are concerned that they cannot negotiate a fair price for themselves. The majority of farmers have low incomes and support their entire family. This is apparent as many farm labourers own a small portion of land. Over 85 per cent of farmland in India is owned by farmers who own less than two hectares of land (five acres). Many farmers also owe an overwhelming amount of debts. This number has risen in Punjab by 61 per cent in the last 30 years. The depression and anxiety rate for Punjab farmers has increased due to money insecurity. This problem mainly affects small and marginalized farmers. The increased perturbation due to debts has resulted in a higher suicide rate for farmers. Over 3,330 Panjab farmers have committed suicide since 2000. This number has gone up following the legalization of the agricultural laws. An estimated 65 farmers in Punjab also took their lives after September 2020. This number continues to rise amidst the protests. 

There were pre-existing issues with previous laws related to farmers in India. This is because they did not have the necessary protection or safety measures to ensure money security. However, the recent law has left out MSP. This policy confirmed that farmers would receive a reasonable price for their crops. There is a widespread belief that these laws work in the best interest of Modi and his associates. It is apparent that during Modi’s presidency, public sectors became privatized. His colleagues have profited from these decisions. Mukesh Ambani, one of Modi’s associates, has been open about his interest in the agricultural sector. He is currently partnering with Facebook to develop the technological area of agriculture. He is also set to launch the JioKrishi app, which will collect data on farmers. Ambani will likely benefit from this bill because the safeguards for farmers are removed, allowing him to maximize his financial gains. As a result, many people are boycotting companies that Ambani owns, such as Reliance Industries Limited. 

The Government has continued to ignore the concerns of the farmers. This has led to the organization of several protests. In the past two months, over 250 million individuals have participated. A large portion has decided to march to Delhi and confront the Indian Government. This has been declared the largest protest in human history. However, there is a lack of media attention. This could be a result of the partnership between Ambani and Facebook. This platform controls a large portion of social media. This is evident since supporters of the protests were experiencing issues online. They encountered difficulties when addressing the laws on social media. For example, hashtags such as #supportfarmers were trending on Instagram but were repeatedly blocked. This could be because Instagram is an app that is owned by Facebook. The few media sources that have reviewed the farmer’s bill negatively describe farmers. They use words such as hostile or aggressive. However, evidence uploaded to social media proves otherwise. Videos show farmers peacefully protesting while authorities are bombarding them with tear gas or water cannons. The Indian Government is trying to control the message by discrediting the legitimacy of the farmer’s movement. The farmers continue to protest and have remained resilient, despite the ongoing pandemic.

 What can you do?

There are a variety of platforms in which you donate money to support struggling farmers and their families. This money also allows farmers to run langar services in the protests. This is a religious practice in Sikhism in which food is granted to anyone regardless of religion, caste, creed, etc. This free service provides food to people who are not partaking in the protests. As a result, many starving individuals in Delhi are attending the protests so they can receive a hot meal. This money can be donated through online platforms such as Khalsa Aid (https://www.khalsaaid.org/donate-usa) and Saanjh (https://saanjh.org/adopt-a-family/). Another option would be to spread awareness through social media platforms. This can allow individuals to remain informed and educate others on the importance of farmers. An alternative could be to create or join protests. But people should be mindful of COVID-19 restrictions. Lastly, individuals could express their concerns by sending out a letter to their local Government. They can spread awareness on the issue in hopes to receive their support. There is also an option to complete surveys to show the prevalence of this issue. These steps could result in sustainable change. 

Thus, it is evident that these agricultural laws work against the favour of the farmers. Therefore, the Indian Government should listen to the concerns of the farming community. They should gather input from the farmers when creating agricultural bills. Compensation should also be provided to families who have lost a farmer due to suicide. This could aid those who are dependents and struggling as a result of their loss. Furthermore, this is a global issue that impacts everyone’s life. This is because farmers are struggling to survive but have still managed to cultivate crops. These crops provide us with items that are essential for our survival. Therefore, we must speak out against unjust laws and promote fair wages. 

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