Protestors Gather in Bay Area to Support Farmers

The Bay Bride and I-80 were recently packed with motorcyclists, cars, and even tractors-yes, tractors! Most of them had the writing “Support Farmers” written on their vehicles or posters. On Saturday, it took my mom and me around 6 hours from the Oakland Port to the Indian Consulate (approximately 5 minutes away from downtown San Francisco), where the protests took place. An estimated 10k vehicles showed up.  

However, what was the reason behind so many people protesting? In September, the Indian Government passed three laws having to do with farmers and how they sell their crops, who they sell them to, and how long they store their produce. With preexisting laws, farmers could sell goods at MSP (minimum support price), controlled by government-controlled mandis (marketplaces). Farmers were also allowed to limit the cost and time they could store a product. Additionally, with mandis, they could either choose to sell directly to customers or directly to bigger corporations. With the new bills, however, the MSP is insecure; there’s no limit to the amount and duration for which companies can stock goods; the market’s open for mass privatization; farmers now need “voluntary contracts” to do their job-which is farming of course; and lastly, the Government is not accountable for regulating prices which means the prices can go extremely low for farmers to sell their crops to multi-industry corporations leading little to nothing for farmers to live off of.  

The following explains the laws and how only large corporations will be the only group of people to succeed over these laws; however, apart from the rules themselves, the ways they were passed have also caused an uproar. The live stream documenting during the voice votes was muted, and apparently, the upper house was in favor of “ayes.” Furthermore, the members of the opposition were not allowed a physical vote and walked out in dissent. Even more, bills were being passed during the same week in September with an empty parliament. Fifteen people represented 1.3 billion. Many people outside the parliament were heard stating, “the murder of democracy.”  

Following the three bills, protests were held out in India. Farmers and others from Punjab, Haryana, UP, and other surrounding states have come out and gone to Dehli, where India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, sits. Protesters have gone through extreme police brutality, dirty water cannons shooting at them, rubber bullets, barriers stopping their way to Dehli, tear gas, etc. To date, seven protesters have already died, and multiple have been left injured in India’s protests. One person was blinded in the right eye due to a tear gas shell.  

Protests haven’t just been held in India and California; they were held all around the world. Malaysia, Germany, New York, the Netherlands, Australia, Oregon, Washington, and Canada are just some of the places where protests were held for these bills. With London having the greatest show up of people, after India.  

More than half of India’s farmers are in debt, with-according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau- 20,638 killing themselves in 2018 and 2019 alone. Many factors leading to so many farmers committing suicide are believed to be low crop yields, financial devastation or debt, and a lack of support. These new bills will only add to the struggles of an Indian farmer. Former Prime Minister H.D Deve Dowda has even stated, “The Prime Minister should explain why there’s a hurry to pass the bills amid the pandemic…explain how it will help in achieving the government’s goal of doubling farmer’s income,”  

Even though the farmers are currently protesting, many feel a lack of government support than they deserve. More than 60% of the population depends on agriculture for a living. However, their economic power is decreasing. Farmers only make 15% of GDP when they used to be 1/3. 

 Even though the main protests are occurring in India, you can still help. Amplify your and the farmers’ protesting voices by putting pressure on the Indian Government online. Share posts regarding the issue with the hashtags such as “#DilliChalo,” “#Isupportfarmerprotests,” etc., attend a protest near you, donate to one of the following non-profit organizations; “Khalsa Aid, and or “Sahaita Farmer Support Project“, signing the following petition, and most of all, staying educated on the topic.