The HEAL Food Alliance and Food Chain Workers Alliance together represent over two million farmers, working people, and organizers across the United States who are firmly in solidarity with farmers and agricultural workers in India. We join the international call demanding that the Indian government listen to the farming communities that have been stewarding the land for generations.
Right now, farmers and people who work in agriculture across India are engaged in the largest protest in history to demand the repeal of three legislations that, if enacted, will overhaul the Indian agriculture sector, posing an existential threat to small farmers and the food sovereignty of millions of people, while threatening the food security of the country.
Hundreds of millions of farmers would not be risking their lives through months of protest if their lives did not depend on a reversal of this decision. The three legislations¹, collectively known as the ‘India Farm Bills’, have been called ‘anti-farmer’ by farmer unions across the country and are set to change the current agriculture trading ecosystem. India’s current agricultural policy ensures baseline prices for farmers, and by doing so, ensures that food prices are not subject to major spikes. By pulling government support and opening the market to privatization, this new system erodes farmers’ and agricultural workers’ bargaining power and makes them — and consumers — vulnerable to exploitation by the same agribusinesses that have a stranglehold on the American food system, whose business practices exploit workers, push small and medium producers out of the market, and pollute our land, water and air.
Indian farmers, many of whom are still grappling with the adverse long-term impacts of corporate intervention during the Green Revolution of the 1960s, fear that these new laws will leave them vulnerable to corporate interests, and lead to the collapse of the subsidy system.
Over 40% of the Indian population relies on agriculture for their livelihood and, like the majority of American farmers, farmers in India rely on subsidies that shield them from a fluctuating global market and corporate abuse. These new laws would empower corporations to control every aspect of the Indian food system, determining what farmers grow and how they grow it, and setting price points for maximum corporate profit. Too many Indian farmers are already vulnerable to these corporations and these new laws will deliver a further blow to regional food sovereignty, leaving a vulnerable population of farmers and agricultural workers at the mercy of large corporations.
After ten weeks of demonstrations, organizers are still being met with state violence. Farming communities in the north Indian states of Punjab and Haryana began protesting the bills when they were introduced last fall, but despite burgeoning opposition, the BJP-led Central government passed the bill into law in September 2020. In November 2020, members of over 200 farmer unions across 22 Indian states and their supporters joined protesting farmers in Delhi to register their dissent against the laws, and the unconstitutional means by which they were passed — neither farmers’ organizations nor state governments and allies were consulted while drafting the law. Protestors were met with state violence, including tear gas and water cannons and a clampdown on dissenting voices across the country, including those of journalists reporting on the issue. The Delhi police also shut down the city’s internet and over 200 protestors have been arrested so far, including Nodeep Kaur, Dalit labour rights activist and member of a union of workers and farmers.
The HEAL Food Alliance and Food Chain Workers Alliance believe firmly in the right of all people, including food and farm workers, to organize in defense of their lives, their own dignity, and their own livelihoods.
We join in solidarity with the protesters and call for an end to repression and state violence against them, and reinforce the demand that the government listen to farmers and agricultural workers, and engage them in a transparent process to enact laws that will impact their lives and livelihood.
1. Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020 (FPTC), the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020 (FAPAFS), and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Bill, 2020
- For continued grassroots coverage of the farmer protests, and the Indian Agrarian Crisis: People’s Archive of Rural India – for more on the Indian Agrarian Crisis
- More on the impacts of the Green Revolution on the Indian agrarian sector: Monsanto and the Poisonous Cartel of GMOs in India
- VIDEO: India’s huge farmer protests, explained, Vox News
- ‘Happened in US 40 Years Ago’: 87 US Farmers’ Unions Speak Out for Indian Farmers’ Protest, The Wire
Feature image credit: 053 Indian Farmers Protest, Felton Davis, Licensed under cc-by-2.0.