By Hudson Mu, age 14
Hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers have been encamped near New Delhi, India, since November 2020 to protest three new farming bills passed in September. The farmers have created a fully functioning community, some setting up schools and libraries and providing food for their comrades. Most of the farmers are from the Indian states of Punjab and Haryana.
Earlier in 2020, farmers organized mass sit-ins that blocked railways and roads, all this to protest Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three new acts, which are meant to make farming less government dependent and more market-based. According to Statista Research Department, around 60% of India’s population works in the agriculture industry, so support for these protests is immense.
The new policies include reforming minimum pricing, a policy that was developed in the 1960s when India faced acute food shortages. The minimum support price, or MSP, covers almost two dozen crops and is designed to protect the farmers if crop prices fall drastically. Farmers argue that repealing MSP would leave them in an unwinnable competition against large corporations who can afford to sell their crops for cheaper. The protesters want Modi to repeal the acts and, instead of taking away the already sparse government benefits, enact more programs to help farmers, and not enable corporations.
Although remaining mostly peaceful, some violence has occurred during the ongoing protests. The farmers had been preparing to peacefully march around New Delhi on Jan. 26, India’s Republic Day. However, during the march, some farmers used their tractors to break through concrete barriers, giving the police an excuse to violently charge the protesters and fire tear gas. No compromise has yet been made, and the protests are ongoing.