For most of the world, every place and country is recognized for its different things ranging from its culture, people, language, food, history, landscape to other things worth remembering. But when India was remembered in the past, its Hindi film industry, Bollywood, used to pop into the head. Even Indian secularism was highlighted and at times ethnic diversity was one of the main things to appreciate.
However in recent times, circumstances have changed on the world stage regarding the Indian image. The Hindutva regime actually changed things entirely. Good news about India has ceased from quite some time. After the rise of Modi and his RSS-backed regime, the global image of India has become tarnished a lot. The new hassle is Indian farmers’ protests. The protests began in September when tens of thousands of farmers from different states of India, and especially from Indian Punjab, left their homes and took to the streets to protest against the farm reforms passed by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party. The farmers are afraid the legislation will eventually dismantle India’s regulated markets. These steps would stop the government from purchasing wheat and rice at guaranteed prices, leaving farmers to negotiate with private buyers.
In fact, the recently enforced farm reforms have left many farmers in troubled waters.
In India, agriculture makes up approximately 15 per cent of the $2.9 trillion economy and employs about half of the world’s second largest population of 1.3 billion people.
Farmers are trying to call the government to repeal the legislation and retain mandatory government purchases among other demands. It can be a stimulus to add to the disturbing rash of farmers’ suicides across India. A large number of farmers, in particular Sikh farmers from Indian Punjab, have joined these daily indefinite sit-in protests at a stretch of the national highway at Singhu border, Tikri border, Kundli border and Ghazipur border (all marking Delhi Union Territory boundaries). Farmers as protesters are carrying food and other daily commodities and are ready to prolong the duration of protests and the government is deploying hundreds of security personnel to block the roads leading towards New Delhi. Due to increasing protests, the railway is suffering owing to blockages of railway tracks with a recent loss of more than $298 million in a month. Furthermore, with more than one month of ongoing protests, rage is rampantly increasing and protesters are being confronted with water cannons, tear-gas and baton charge. Moreover, protesters are not in a mood to call off the protests and are calling the BJP government promises regarding the farm reforms just exploitation of poor farmers. More than six rounds of talks have failed between protesters and the BJP government.
Many farmers have even burnt their fields in defiance of anti-pollution laws. PM Narendra Modi is trying to overhaul the way many of country’s 146 million farms do business, but with no approval from the farmer community. In the meantime, protests are spreading beyond New Delhi in the southern states of Kerala and in the northeastern state of Assam. Additionally, sugar farmers in Utter Pradesh have set up a protest camp in solidarity with fellow farmers. Times are hard but farmers are determined to protest. Their fertile lands of myriad acres are turning into barren lands due to the anti-farmer policies of the BJP government.
Meanwhile, farmers fear lower prices, even less than half of present ones, when small farms will be taken over by renowned corporate giants. Farmers are showing their resentment by burning stubble without being afraid of the pollution-focused Indian government ordinance prescribing prison, a fine of up to about $135,000 or both. New Delhi’s air quality is also suffering already and a third wave of coronavirus is haunting all too bleakly. This stubble burning defiance is contributing to the pollution which is severely choking New Delhi and the rest of northern India. According to satellite data, India recently registered the worst farm fires in four years. Protesters are sleeping on hay in tractor- trailers covered with canvas tarps in freezing cold with temperatures of 2°C in the protests. More than 40 protesters have died in a month.
The worsening pollution makes it harder for asthma and corona patients to breathe in clean air. Pollution and the cold waves worked like splashing petrol on burning building. There has also been a devastating economic slump affecting livelihoods after the corona lockdowns.
All the major opposition parties, including the Indian National Congress and Aam Admi Party Chief Minister Arwind Kejriwal with government in New Delhi, are supporting the protesters ‘ demands of repealing the farm reforms. According to CM Arvind Kejriwal the three agricultural reforms were passed from the upper house which is Rajya Sabha without following any voting procedure.
Farmers’ protests are not the only thing worsening or adding fuel to the fire, but but severe human rights violations in Indian-Occupied side of Kashmir and Delhi riots are other insults added to injury. Even European Union Disinfolab reports published between December 9 and 11 have exposed Indian fake news and disinformation network through which India was exploiting local media worldwide. World leaders, artists and organisations have also voiced concerns for farmers especially Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also included himself in this cause. Drmonstrations have been set up in different parts of the world by Sikh communities in solidarity with farmers of India and such incidents are presenting trickier challenges.
Farmers are vital for bringing India out of its debilitating, coronavirus-driven recession. Agriculture has been a rare bright spot, for the revival of common man’s livelihood after Mr. Modi locked down the country to stop the pandemic earlier this year.
Farmers traditionally play a major role in the annual pollution. Many set fire to large swaths of land to clear fields ahead of the winter wheat sowing season which have been estimated to contribute betweentwo and 40 percent of Delhi’s air pollution during the period. It is important to address the actual concerns of farmers in consultations with agricultural scientists and experts to liberate people from the severity of future food scarcity.