The Indian government has introduced new laws to privatize the agriculture industry. Tens of thousands of farmers from Punjab and other states are marching to Delhi in protest against these laws. Their peaceful protests, however, have been met with water cannons, tear gas, and hostility from the authorities.
Farming is the main source of income for over 70% of the population in Punjab, and the enactment of these bills only seeks to benefit large corporations. One of the major concerns that farmers from the western states of Punjab and Haryana are raising is that the new bills do not guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) for their produce. This means that large corporations will be able to pay farmers what they see suitable and if the MSP drops, farmers will be at a large disadvantage. Over the years, accumulating debt has been the leading cause of death for farmers. However, the establishment of the private market could leave farmers in a tremendous amount of debt. In Punjab alone, after the laws were introduced, at least 65 farmers died by suicide. Additionally, the laws come without building prerequisite infrastructure and pave the way for the import of cheaper products without appropriate price regulations. Seeing the government’s historically rooted poor response to farmers, we must amplify their voices.