For months, hundreds of thousands of farmers have been protesting in India, with many camping out on highways on the outskirts of Delhi since the end of November, despite the cold and rain. The reason for the mass demonstrations? The government introduced new farming bills in September, which remove minimum prices for wheat and rice — a move that the farmers say is a threat to their livelihoods.
Farmers fear the new laws will lead to big corporations taking over, arguing reductions in prices will make it too difficult for small and medium-scale farmers to make ends meet. At the same time, the climate crisis has already affected their incomes, with rising temperatures, droughts, and storms damaging crops across the country.
Several generations of farmers have joined the protests, from the elderly to young children, with women also at the forefront of the demonstrations. Here, artist and filmmaker Jassi Sangha, who comes from a long line of farmers in Punjab, explains what’s been happening on the ground in Delhi.
“I come from a family of farmers — everyone in the family is deeply involved. It’s not just a job, it’s part of our culture in states such as Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan. Medium and small-scale farmers will suffer the most from the new farming bills. Without the minimum support price, private players in the market will buy our grain for the price they want. Farmers will be forced to sell their land, and it’ll increase unemployment and inequality. Consumers will be affected too, as companies will be able to sell the grain at whatever price they want.
“Women are showing a strong presence at the protests. That’s because women are often directly involved in the farming, harvesting, and storing of the crops — you can see women working in food grain markets. In fact, 85 per cent of rural women are engaged in agriculture, but only 13 per cent own any land. There are lots of widows who work on farms as well, as suicide is a major issue among farmers.”
Read the full story, ‘“We Have To Fight”: Why It’s Women At The Forefront Of India’s Farming Protests, And How To Help’ (Vogue, 26 Jan 2021), here.
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