The Farmer’s Protests in India

What may be the largest people’s protest in history is now taking quite a gory turn. What started as a peaceful farmers’ protest movement in India now involves an estimated two hundred million people since August (Troyer, 2021). The protesters, mainly from the states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Haryana marched on the capital in November to voice their discontent on three new laws concerning agriculture that were passed by the federal government back in September (Times Of India, 2020; Reuters, 2020). They were met with tear gas and water cannons as police tried to block their path to Delhi (Aljazeera, 2020). The protesters have now set up camps on the outskirts of the city and established communities.

“The government is taking all inhuman steps. This includes cutting electricity, shutting off water, and shutting down the internet. Now the government is barricading” (BBC, 2020). 

Organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have been shedding light on the events taking place at the protests. According to Amnesty International, at least eight prominent reporters and lawmakers have been charged with sedition after commenting on the protests (Amnesty 2021). The Indian Minister of Foreign affairs has even initiated a social media campaign to tarnish the image of the participating protesters (Human Rights Watch, 2021). The protesters themselves have already been subject to violent crackdowns and clashes with the police force. The efforts to isolate the protesters made by the Indian government have been globally denounced as a violation of human rights. 

The new laws concerning agriculture in India, which have caused an uproar, were advanced with the intention of reforming India’s agriculture system. Over half of India’s workforce is involved in the farming sector while the industry accounts for just under 15% of India’s GDP (Ministry of Home Affairs, 2001). The attempt at solidifying the agricultural sector was deemed unfair and exploitative by the farmers.

The laws in question

  1. Farmers can now sell their products independently of the state-regulated wholesale markets called Mandis. This would allegedly alleviate the burden of taxes and fees, and it would also enable the development of an independent free-market.
  2. Farmers can now deal with companies and sell their crops before they’ve even been harvested. This could potentially help farmers create lasting relationships with buyers.
  3. Food storage is now free of any government supervision. Meaning wholesalers won’t be subject to government inspections and regulation concerning their stocks. 

Possible Consequences

The three laws that were supposed to bring positive changes for the farming industry are said to have catastrophic consequences on those who rely on farming for their livelihood. 

The first law that allows for unregulated markets to pop-up parallel to the Mandis will, according to the farmers, wreck the current systems. Having two different systems with very different rules will initiate a transition from the state-regulated Mandis to the unregulated ones, rendering the Mandis and the protections it represents for the farmers obsolete. Farmers believe it will lead to the end of Mandis and of MSP (the bench-price the State will pay farmers for their merchandise) or minimum the support price. When trade will move from the regulated to unregulated markets with this new law, farmers will be pushed to negotiate with the private buyers themselves. With no MSP to back them up, if the prices offered by the companies are not deemed satisfactory by the farmers, they will have no bargaining power, which may force farmers to sell at throwaway prices. This all essentially leaves farmers vulnerable to the mercy of the corporations. For small farmers who can’t sell to big companies, it is depriving them of their source of income– and their livelihoods.

The second law, which allows for the sale of crops before their production could create even more problems for farmers. In India, many farmers take out loans through banks to buy the land they produce on. If they are unable to pay back their loans, their lands are taken from them by the banks, which takes away their livelihood. This second law increases the risks for farmers to go bankrupt in this new flawed system and could possibly intensify the burden of debts. This could have fatal consequences as stress related to debt is one of the leading causes of the alarmingly high suicide rates for farmers in India. In 2019 alone, 10 281 farmers died by suicide (AlJazeera, 2020).

Unsupervised stockpiling, as permitted by the third law, would allow people to artificially hike up the prices of goods and create fake scarcity. This could bring food insecurity and destabilize a market already in a precarious state

Piled ontop of eachother, these laws would initiate the privatization of the farming industry in India and essentially kill smaller farmers. Such change will severely affect Indian farmers since 82% of farmers in India are indeed small or marginal and 70% of rural households primarily depend on agriculture for livelihood (FAO, n.d). According to the protesters, the new legislation protects the corporations at the expense of the farmers and promotes the rise of monopolies.

Undemocratic” and a “Death Warrant

Protesters have called these laws undemocratic because of the process that led to these laws being passed in Parliament. Not only were farmers/the farmer’s unions not consulted when drafting them, but the debates were expedited and the voting process was questionable. Farmers are not against reform, but according to them, the laws passed are poorly written and prioritize the interests of private companies; they want a written law that will protect Mandis and the MSP, stating the government will keep them (BBC, 2020). Representatives of farmer’s unions are currently negotiating with the State, and the international community is eager to see how this will unfold and whether their case will be made heard.  


“A Timeline of Farmers’ Protests in India.” Stacker, Accessed 14 Feb. 2021.

Nov 30, TIMESOFINDIA COM |. Updated:, et al. “Farmers Protest Explained in 5 Charts | India News – Times of India.” The Times of India, Accessed 14 Feb. 2021.

Why Many Indian Farmers and Politicians Oppose PM Narendra Modi’s Farm Laws – The Economic Times. Accessed 14 Feb. 2021.

Thousands of Farmers March to Indian Capital Defying Tear Gas. Accessed 14 Feb. 2021. India: Government Must Stop Crushing Farmers’ Protests and Demonizing Dissenters.

By Zahra Hassan Doualeh

Media manager, journalist

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