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Why Are Farmers Protesting In India?

February 5, 2021

Imagine that you’re a farmer and every day you tend to your farm because the crops that you grow and the animals that you raise are your main source of income (or money). You depend on this income to pay the bills and to feed yourself and your family. As a farmer, you have many customers, one of which may be the government. To support the farmers, the government has guaranteed at least a minimum price for the various crops that you grow. As a farmer, you depend on these guarantees. Now, what if the government decided to change the rules. How would you react? Hold that thought …

via Pixabay

In India, over 50 percent of the population depends on agriculture as their main source of income. That means that over half of the approximately 1.3 billion people who live in India either own a farm or work on a farm. A lot of people? Definitely. A lot of power? Well, yes and no. While farmers are one of the biggest voting groups in the country, they also make up some of the poorest population. Whenever there’s a crisis, such as a bad storm that affects crops, farmers suffer. In the late 1960s, the Indian government introduced the concept of a Minimum Support Price (MSP). The MSP allowed the government to purchase directly from farmers at a minimum price for specific crops. By creating the MSP system, the government was hoping to solve the problem of possible food shortages and farmers would be able to continue to work as farmers.

Harvinder Chandigarh, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

Last year, India’s government passed three new farm laws. These laws would decrease the government’s control over pricing, allow corporations or big businesses to buy directly from farmers, enable farmers to set their own prices in exclusive buying contracts with corporations, and allow trades to happen online. Sounds interesting, right? According to the government, these laws would help the agriculture sector and allow more businesses to invest in farming. So why are farmers protesting these new laws? Well, farmers depend on guarantees from the government. While these laws don’t necessarily take these guarantees away, farmers are worried that big businesses will have the power to pressure them into lowering their prices. Since November, farmers have gathered to protest these laws. What do they want? They want the government to repeal all three laws. What will happen next? It’s uncertain, but protests continue.

We’ll keep you posted.