Farmers’ Protest and Socio-Economics – A Litmus Test for World’s Largest Democracy?

Farmers’ Protest and Socio-Economics – A Litmus Test for World’s Largest Democracy?

Centred around the three pieces of agricultural legislation passed in September 2020 by Indian Parliament, #FarmersProtest began in August when the three acts were unveiled.

Though, PRS, a non-profit Indian legislative research institute claims the three bills enact,

1. Reduction in trade regulations on farmers’ goods,

2. Allow electronic and interstate trading,

3. Empower farmers and buyers to ratify exclusive contracts limiting government’s control to regulate the supply of essential commodities.

The farmers’ argument is based on the concerns regarding the competition generated as a result of these bills and the empowerment of corporate buyers rather than agricultural workforce – nearly 60% of India’s population. As per farmers this ‘deregulation’ provides buyers an access to broader group of suppliers which will enable them to decrement prices.

Moreover, the bills amputate government imposed minimum prices for certain goods which have already been hardly serving the farmers. Now without guaranteed prices farmers will have to sell their land losing their livelihoods.

This has now become not only a predicament to deal with agricultural ‘deregulation’, it has also become a matter of survival for rural communities in India which can lead to existential crisis.

AlJazeera cites Andrew Flachs, an anthropology professor at Purdue University who has extensively studied the experiences of cotton farmers in India to address the implications of such agricultural legislation. He says,
“These protests have gone way beyond the bills because this has spiralled into a larger conversation about the soul of rural India, which is something very familiar to those of us in the Midwest.”
By relating the farmers marching in Delhi on India’s Republic Day with hundreds of trucks and tractors on the National Mall in Washington, DC during the farming crisis of the late 1970s and early 1980s, Flachs says,
“We’re always talking about the spirit of American agrarianism and the soul of rural America and this has shifted into a conversation of those same dynamics in India.”
Referring to the researchers, AlJazeera reports, rural Americans adapted and moved to cities as a result of farming crisis, however, Bengaluru-based social anthropologist Aninhalli Vasavi says, Farmers in India have few options – as economic realities force them to leave their rural homes, they struggle in urban areas.
“India has not had a substantial industrial base to absorb large population into gainful industrial or urban employment. Instead, vast number of rural migrants are ‘adversely integrated’ into the low-end urban and construction economy.”
Here, it is essential for the Indian policy makers to take into account that India is facing its worst recession in years while battling Covid-19. It is estimated, India’s economy has shrunk nearly 8 percent in the current fiscal year ending on March 31.
New York Times reports, the data reflects the deepening of India’s severest recession since at least 1996, when the country first began publishing its gross domestic product numbers. Mahesh Vyas, economist and the CE of the Mumbai-based Center for Monitoring the Indian Economy says,
“I don’t know why the government is so hung up on being fiscally conservative when the whole world is suggesting that this is the time, like no other, to be profligate. I don’t know any economist suggesting this line of policy.”
Moreover, unresolved Kashmir conflict, #FarmersProtest and a plethora of ethno-regional fault-lines are extending the impact of economic recession towards masses striving for survival. Now how this deadlock is resolved by RSS BJP Modi govt will not only have consequences for India’s agricultural and economic matrix, it will also decide the fate of India domestically in the upcoming elections and internationally as the so-called largest democracy.

Categories: International Affairs

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