Indian farmers lead historic struggle for Food Sovereignty, Anti-fascism, Democracy and Human Rights
Friends of the Earth International stands in solidarity with Indian farmers and workers in their continuing protests against the deregulation and corporatisation of agriculture and their fight for food sovereignty, anti-fascism, democracy and human rights.
Since August 2020, hundreds of farmers’ organisations across India have been protesting against three new farm laws enacted by the central government. They argue that the new laws will together bypass state-regulated agricultural markets, remove limits on stockpiling of agricultural commodities, and deregulate minimum support prices. This will open India’s agriculture sector to corporate control, destroy the public food distribution system and small-scale food production, and devastate farm incomes.
Around 70% of India’s 1.3 billion people depend on agriculture for their livelihoods and 800 million of them have relied on public food distribution during the COVID-19 pandemic. India’s agrarian economy has already been in crisis for over a decade due to indebtedness of farmers to agribusiness and money lenders, severe under investment in farming and low farm prices, as well as successive governments pushing a market-led, neoliberal approach to agriculture.
Farmers’ organisations are united in their position that this reform will only increase precarity, especially for small and marginal farmers. They are demanding the withdrawal and repeal of the new farm laws and for the Government to start a new reform process with those most affected – farmers – at the table.
Despite the strong opposition within and outside parliament, the Bills were passed in September 2020 via a questionable parliamentary process. State governments were not consulted and hasty progress was made during the draconian COVID-19 lockdown.
Farmers marching from various states of India to the capital New Delhi have been met with brutal repression, including tear gas, water cannons and wide trenches dug by the police. Several farmer leaders have been arrested and detained and at least 15 have lost their lives. The Government’s approach to the farmers struggle has so far been insincere, claiming to ‘hold consultations’, even as they pursue a malignant campaign of misinformation against the protestors labelling them secessionists and anti-nationals.
Yet the movement stands united and strong. The farmers’ protests have been supported by millions of workers, dalits, adivasis (indigenous peoples), women, fishworkers, forest dwellers, student unions and other minority and civil society groups. These have been among the largest and most historic protests against neoliberalism, neo-colonialism, fascism and anti-democratic tendencies in the world. They are supported by 1 in 4 of all Indian workers.
Across the world, the impacts of governments and international institutions (such as the World Bank and World Trade Organisation) pushing industrial, corporate-controlled, market-led agriculture are clear. This model has destroyed the environment and livelihoods, contributed to rising hunger and malnutrition, poverty and social inequalities. It has only deepened the hunger crisis during COVID-19, with the dismantling of public infrastructure and promotion of large-scale cash crops for export, rather than locally-produced, accessible and affordable food markets.
Peasant, family and indigenous farmers are the future of food production. They still feed the majority of the world, especially the most marginalised who the market does not reach. Their ancestral and indigenous practices and leadership are the basis for agroecology: a path away from industrial farming towards a food system founded on social justice and food sovereignty.
We stand in solidarity with the farmers’ movements. We extend our support for their demands that the Government:
- Repeal the three acts
- Provide legal guarantee of Minimum Support Price
- Repeal Electricity (Amendment) Bill 2020
- Release political prisoners.
There is no Food Sovereignty without small farmers! Food is not a commodity, but a Human Right!
Image credit: Anil Varghese / Jibin Robin