Conflicts & War

Triumphant farmers in India to continue protests against farm laws

By David Asta Alares

New Delhi, Nov 23 (EFE).- Thousands of peasants in India have emerged victorious after a resolute stand since last year against the government’s contentious agrarian reforms seeking to liberalize the sector.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced last week that he would withdraw the three farm reform laws, an announcement coming from a leader who is not accustomed being arm-twisted, taking both critics and protesters by surprise.

But the farmers camped outside New Delhi since November last year are not ready to leave yet, and peasant leaders refuse to call off the protest until the government actually keeps its promise and rolls back the laws.

“Even if we have to be here for another 4-5 years, we will stay here. We have our own supplies (groceries) here and we have place to stay. We have all the facilities. We have no problem,” Satnam Singh, a 66-year-old farmer from the northern state of Punjab, told EFE.

Singh acknowledged that he did not expect the government to retrace its steps, while the farmers wait for the government to formally repeal the laws in the parliamentary session that begins next week.

Seated in front of one of the large communal kitchens of Singhu camp – one of the three border points occupied by the peasants outside New Delhi -, explained how he has divided his time between the protests and his farm in his native village.

This system of rotation, where one group of people goes back to work on farms while others take their place at the protest sites, is what has kept the movement sustainable for the thousands of peasants.

Singhu has community kitchens, a makeshift hospital in the middle of the road that has intensive care beds and even a massage center.

“We work day and night. Our bodies are used to tolerate both the extremes be it summer or winter. We water the fields in the night and we also work in the sun, so our bodies are used to it,” underlined Singh.

Women have also been a significant part of the movement, living in the camps and protesting against the three farm laws.

“We are with our farmer brothers shoulder to shoulder. We (women) come here in a group of 30-40 people. We will go back in 15 days and then the other group of women will come,” 60-year-old Gurmeet Kaur told EFE.

The peasants began their protests in November last year against three laws that they believe leave producers at the mercy of the free market, with no protective measures.

Harjinder Singh, another protesting farmer, explained to EFE that another secret behind the success of the movement was the alliance of farm unions.

“Thirty two different farmer unions have come together and created Samyutkt Kisan Morcha (SKM) for this farmer’s struggle,” he said.

Pujab, from where most of the farmers have come to protest and which produces most of the country’s wheat, has become the epicenter of the protests.

Among the farmers’ complaints, Harjinder highlighted the fear that market liberalization would end the government-regulated system of wholesale markets or “mandis,” to the benefit of a handful of large enterprises.

“These laws are (…) not only anti-farmer but also (harmful) for the common public. When these laws come into force and as you are seeing, inflation will rise so much,” he said.

The government, however, claims that these laws seek to give farmers the ability to negotiate prices directly with buyers, without any hindrance or intermediaries.

The parties held negotiations around the beginning of the year, and the government expressed willingness to make some changes to the laws; however, these talks failed as the peasants demanded their total repeal.

Related Articles

Back to top button