Farmers' protest in India
Thousands of farmers poured into India's capital, New Delhi, in a real siege between November and December last year to protest against the new three agricultural laws that the government enacted in September 2020.
A protest never seen in size, as several media admit: "Protests are the largest mobilization ever of the peasants ..."
Soon after the promulgation of the three black laws, as the peasants call them, protests had begun in the various states of the Indian Union, especially in the northern states of the country, Punjab, Rajasthan, Haryana, western Uttar Pradesh... and after a general strike on 25 September throughout India (Bharat Bandh), the protest also spread to entire Uttar Pradesh, and also to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Kerala, Uttarakhand and parts of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh; but since the beginning of November the organized peasant masses gathered in over 40 large "unions", having had no response from the government, have decided to move the protest directly to the city where the government is based.
The reasons for challenging the three black laws are clear and simple, so as clear has become to everyone their substance: the government wants to give the green light to the entry of multinationals into the country's agriculture by clearly dismantling the current system of production, sale and distribution of agricultural products (a system which works through the sale to the state at collection centers and protected markets – the so-called 'mandi' – at a guaranteed minimum price – MSP is the acronym used in India), which allows millions of farmers to survive; the government wants the privatization of the whole sector which accounts for about a quarter of gross domestic product and 650 million workers involved in agriculture (half of the population!) and put it in the hands of the large multinationals, especially Indian at the moment, dominated by the Ambani, Adani, Birlas, Tata etc., with their control over agricultural products, control of prices on contracts with farmers, etc., in short, total control of the sector. Modi's statements in this regard are clear: "The new decade will see the birth and growth of indigenous multinationals", "Reforms, from agriculture to space, will increase the scope of business..."
The meaning and objectives of the laws are therefore clear, but as everyone knows, governments try to disguise their content by adding words to deceive, to calm the masses in revolt, declaring that these laws even represent improvements and benefits for the people!
The three laws bear these high-sounding names:
Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act
Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act
Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act
The first law expands the planned current commercial areas for agricultural products to "any place of production, harvesting, aggregation"; allows both wholesale and retail e-commerce of essential agricultural products: a modality almost impossible for farmers to use; prohibits state governments from imposing market taxes, excise duties or other types of levies on farmers, traders and e-commerce platforms acting in an "external trading area".
The second provides a legal framework that should safeguard farmers who enter into contracts with purchasers, and provide for price indication; but in anticipation of the logical prevarication of "buyers" towards farmers, it defines a dispute resolution mechanism. The farmers, that is, after being screwed, as a journalist says, will be able to "complain", perhaps bringing to court giants of the world economy!
The third law removes foodstuffs such as cereals, legumes, potatoes, onions, edible oilseeds and oils from the list of essential products, removing the storage limits of such items except in "extraordinary circumstances"; And in order to throw smoke in the eye it imposes a limit on the accumulation of stocks for agricultural products only if this leads to an increase in prices.
In fact, as we can see, it is precisely the dismantling of the current system, which by the masters of the multinationals has been called for as a 'prerequisite' (free market, prices to be bargained for, no 'protected' production) for any investments.
To get farmers into even more debt and bankrupt them, that is what they aim to, for a "free" use of the land, transforming it into monocultures or factories, mines. That’s what, exactly, they have been trying for about 30 years, as some analysts remember! It is the recipes of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, the "structural adjustments" imposed on various states in exchange for the possibility of obtaining international loans: in fact, this is the case of "reforms" that worsen the living and working conditions of workers, labourers and the popular masses in general. And the Chief Economist of the International Monetary Fund says it openly: "The laws on agriculture and work are important steps in the right direction. They have the potential for a more flexible labour market... and in the case of agriculture to have a more integrated market that creates competition..." These 'adjustments' are gladly followed by Modi, who is simultaneously trying to restrict the powers of the various States of the Union, such as on agriculture, by centralizing decisions and passing the costs on to them.
Once they have understood the true content of the laws (and to these must be added the new law called the "amendment" on electricity that provides, also this, price liberalization and related increase in tariffs and additional costs for farmers!), the masses of farmers have unleashed protests with the sole aim of forcing the government to withdraw the three laws: these are the firm demands to date, together with another series of demands to lighten the burden on the masses of farmers ... such as raising the minimum support price (MSP) by at least 50%, reducing the prices of agricultural diesel by 50%, withdrawing all charges against protesting farmers and releasing arrested leaders.
The protests targeted not only the government symbolically in the various states, but the places of production, sale and storage of the goods of India's masters: supermarkets, petrol pumps, storage silos, telecommunications towers. The attack on these towers, in particular (about 2000) has unleashed the ire of billionaire Ambani (who has a personal wealth of 170 billion dollars in a country where the large masses "live" with one dollar a day – 102nd place out of 107 in the international ranking of countries where hunger is most suffering) who asked the courts and the government to intervene to put an end to "vandalism".
These protests, which took the government itself by surprise in part, perhaps thinking of splitting the front that has been created by using the differences between large and small farmers, have expanded to the far-fetched, have expanded to other states and many other sectors, have won popular support, the solidarity and material support of intellectuals and workers who fight daily against masters, and against ruthless governments: just think of the factory workers who, when they rebel, are attacked and sometimes killed by the private militias of the masters with the support of the State that uses its industrial police (CISF) to safeguard the profits of multinationals; or think to the same State led by Modi who shows no scruples in having Muslims massacred by discriminatory and racist laws.
The right protests of the peasants were met by the government with the harshest violence; it first tried to stem protests in different states and then tried to prevent farmers from arriving in the capital New Delhi, raising barricades, even digging trenches in the streets, using "water cannons in the middle of winter, abuse, provocation, trolls, blatant misinformation..." (the Hindu), and still barbed wire, tear gas in an already ice-cold Delhi for polar cold and rain floods.
The death toll so far is about 60, not to mention the absurd scourge of debt and poverty suicides, more than 10,000 in 2019.
The strength of protest
But despite the implementation of a powerful internal "troop" movement, the government failed to do so: "We used water cannons and installed barricades but we were not able to stop the peasants who kept going ... Protesters move in large numbers and some of them throw stones at policemen during clashes," "Protesters broke through vehicle windows with water cannons and walked through the square. Because of the large number we had no choice but to let them through," one policeman reported. "The police dug trenches to stop us from getting to Delhi. Our brave farmers have passed every barricade, water cannons, tear gas to get here," said one farmer.
This revolting mass has armed itself not only with traditional weapons of popular struggles to repel police attacks, but also from a "legal" point of view, intelligently using the results of the National Farmers' Commission led by a famous agricultural scientist and under the jurisdiction of the government itself; results that say that the solution is not at all that of privatization, but rather to strengthen the current system by recognizing farmers a higher price for their products.
The "novelty" of the massive presence of women
The other "surprise" of these gigantic protests against the Modi government is that of women. In fact, thousands of women have gradually joined the peasants that started the fight, somehow "breaking the feudal mentality" as one journalist says, and who have shown all their determination by placing themselves at the forefront of the fight.
For some Indian media it was a "surprise" and they talked about it in these terms: "A surprising feature of the protests this time is the presence of women"... "thousands of women have become a pillar of the farmers' protests blocking the streets in New Delhi and which have become a major challenge for the government. The presence and above all the protagonism of women is truly a gigantic challenge for Modi's Hindu fascist government. But this surprise is only the effect of the "invisibility" of the female workforce on India's vast farmland.
Nearly 75% of rural women in India who work full-time are farmers, according to non-governmental organization Oxfam India, and the number is expected to even increase as more and more men migrate to cities to find a work. Yet just under 13% of women own the land they work. And now these women have "taken to the streets" as some of them say, with the intention of staying there until they have won their battle.
The importance of the issue (within the global crisis)
The Modi government's obstinacy in wanting these laws to be applied at all costs is explained by the "necessity" of the representative of the Indian masters to give a positive response, this certainly, to the hunger for profits of multinationals aggravated by the global crisis and further aggravated at this time by the global pandemic. The scope of the demonstrations, in fact, a reflection of the importance of the subject in question, is of the gigantic ones, it concerns the current state of affairs at world level, it concerns the crisis and the response that governments try to give to it to get out of it, it touches on global competition, the kind of food supply that is fundamental to the very existence of humanity, it touches on land grabbing, with the expulsion of local populations, it concerns the destruction not only of agricultural land with the use of chemistry, but also the destruction of the immense forests of the country and the management of the immense "raw materials".
Land and forests that must be "free", precisely from the control of farmers to allow the owners of the multinationals Ambani, Adani etc. to "stay on the market", to compete internationally, and given that, for example, the production of household appliances or clothing and other "old" sectors stagnates, other investment fields are needed such as the immense agricultural market or the "new sectors" of high technology that allow great profits... it is recent and very important, in this sense, Ambani's billionaire agreement with the giants of the Internet, Facebook Inc., Google etc. and implanting new technologies, (the towers destroyed by farmers during protests!) throughout the country means having control of the territory, penetrating the forests building new roads.
This aspect of forest control is of great interest for the Modi government because these are the main place of action of the People's War led by the PCI (Maoist), an insurmountable obstacle to the government's plans. And it is no coincidence that some members of the government immediately targeted the protest and solidarity with it by saying that the farmers' protest ended up in the hands of the Maoists.
Government plays the card of 'dialogue'
After the first incessant and very strong weeks of struggle and the encirclement of New Delhi, the government summoned the representatives of the peasants to open the discussion on the three laws. After 7 meetings, however, the government, mainly through its Minister for Agriculture, has stood firm on its positions, it does not intend to abolish the three laws! He just wants to discuss some clauses and even try to convince the farmers of the goodness of the laws. And Narendra Modi, always filling his mouth with the word democracy, has said it openly and clearly: these laws are a watershed! There is a before and after these laws, and there can be no 'human approach 'on his part, as some farmers would like!
The farmers, and the peasants, in turn, have stood firm in their demand for the abolition of the three laws and are threatening other initiatives if the request is not granted. The answer is in fact the continuation of the struggle: the farmers have already built real citadels around the capital (which has about 20 million inhabitants) and in particular in some crucial places, and the situation can become even more fiery given that the huge outskirts of Delhi has a large number of industries and hundreds of thousands of workers. After 8 January, if there are no adequate answers, peasants are preparing the "tractor parade", a march inside the capital for 26 January, Republic Day.
We then can say that with his new three pro-multinational laws Modi has raised such a great stone that in falling back he could give the mortal blow to him and his government...