9th August, 2020 launched the farmers' protest in India that is continuing unabated since the Indian Parliament passed three contentious agriculture laws in September 2020. The protest has continued as neither the Indian government nor the farmers are willing to concede their positions. From the "Rail Roko" or train stopping movement to the "Delhi Chalo" (Go to Delhi movement), the farmers have shown their firm resolve.
AGRICULTURAL LAWS PROMISE TO DOUBLE FARMERS' INCOME
The agriculture bill was passed by the Lok Sabha (lower house) on 17 September. The President of India, Ramnath Kovind, gave his assent for the three laws on 27 September. Farmers from Delhi, UP, Bihar, Punjab, and Rajasthan have been at the forefront protesting against these laws. The focus of their ire is the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act 2020, the Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services (Empowerment and Protection) Act 2020, and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020.
The Indian Government says the laws will transform and improve the agriculture sector, which plays a critical role in the Indian economy. The agriculture sector provides approximately 42% of all employment in India and contributes approximately 15% to the overall GDP. The government promised that these new laws will double farmers' income by 2022 by making farmers independent of controlled markets run by middle men. The Indian government contends that the laws will reap higher profits for their produce, encourage intra-state trade, and modernise farming by attracting foreign Investments.
FARMERS DEMAND THAT GOVERNMENT CONTINUE CRITICAL SUBSIDIES
Indian farmers are fully convinced that these laws will destroy their livelihood. According to those protesting, the new agricultural laws will reduce the responsibility of the government to provide necessary subsidies. The farmers fear that if their produce is released into the free market, they will be left to corporate corruption. Among the demands include, the farmers are insisting that the government provide essential electricity subsidies. They demand the removal of provisions on stubble burning that imposes 3 years imprisonment or Rs. 3 crore. fine. They demand that imprisoned farmers who were fined and jailed due to stubble burning should be released. Finally, they call for an end to contract farming that has resulted in displacing farmers in India and around the world.
8th ROUND OF TALKS SCHEDULED AS 7th ROUND ENDS IN GRIDLOCK
In the sixth round of talks there were hopes that the government would arrive at a compromise. The two sides had come to an understanding on two of the four demands of the farmers: withdrawal of the Electricity Amendment Bill and the penal provisions for stubble burning in the Air Quality Commission Ordinance. Yet, Ii the seventh round of negotiations on Monday, the talk was inconclusive. Both parties have agreed to hold the eighth round of talks on 7 January.
The talks have so far failed to mollify farmers who say the three new agricultural laws threaten their livelihoods. After nearly seven rounds of talks with the Indian government, there is no movement forward towards a resolution. Many farmers have died; some have committed suicide in the course of the ongoing protests. One farmer's suicide note to the Indian Prime Minister pleaded to have "mercy on the farmers". The Indian government approach needs to be collaborative and aligned with the farmers' ability to make a successful livelihood from the single most important sector in the Indian economy.