KATIE SHIEH WRITES — Millions of Indian farmers are taking to the streets, having organized one of the largest protests in modern history. Activists are fighting to overturn new legislation regarding the agricultural sector that would make it more market-based instead of state-controlled.
The market-based approach means that farmers’ crops will no longer yield guaranteed prices. Farmers are against this legislation because they believe this approach will also increase corporate exploitation of workers.
Farmers are an essential part of the Indian economy, with about 58% of India’s population of 1.3 billion depending on agriculture for their livelihood. As such a large part of the population, they make up a significant element of India’s voter base. So now, this agricultural issue has sparked a human rights campaign in addition to a political one.
How is the government responding to this outcry against oppression? Most of the protestors were concentrated in New Delhi, the capital, where there was a heavy police presence. Although many protestors said their actions were peaceful, “The government does not want the real facts to reach protesting farmers, nor their peaceful conduct to reach the world.”-says a major leader of the protests, Darshan Pal . The protest culminated in violence, with dozens of officers injured and one protestor dead, having been hit by an overturned tractor. The government took extreme measures to silence the protestors by cutting off Internet services to certain areas.
As the strike continues to unfold, and as the government takes more authoritarian measures against the protestors, what is the prognosis for India’s ailing democracy? The Indian people and its government appear to currently be at a stalemate, and the protestors will not be taking a break any time soon.