Indian farmers protest entered the 67th day on Sunday as repressive measures of Prime Minister Narendra Modi failed to dislodge the protesting farmers at different borders of the national capital, New Delhi.
Agriculture employs about half of India's population of 1.3 billion, and unrest among an estimated 150 million landowning farmers is one of the biggest challenges to the government of Prime Minister Modi since first coming to power in 2014.
Eleven rounds of talks between farm unions and the government have failed to break the deadlock as farmers are firm in their demand to withdraw the three farm laws which they say will ravage their livelihoods and create an opportunity for large, private companies to enter and exploit the entire agriculture sector.
According to Colin Todhunter, India's agrifood sector has been on the radar of global corporations for decades. "With deep market penetration and near saturation having been achieved by agribusiness in the US and elsewhere, India represents an opportunity for expansion and maintaining business viability and all-important profit growth." He said adding: And by teaming up with the high-tech players in Silicon Valley, multi-billion dollar data management markets are being created. From data and knowledge to land, weather and seeds, capitalism is compelled to eventually commodify (patent and own) all aspects of life and nature.
Foreign agricapital is applying enormous pressure on India to scrap its meagre (in comparison to the richer nations) agricultural subsidies. The public distribution system and publicly held buffer stocks constitute an obstacle to the profit-driven requirements of global agribusiness interests.
Current agricultural 'reforms' are part of a broader process of imperialism's increasing capture of the Indian economy, which has led to its recolonization by foreign corporations as a result of neoliberalization which began in 1991. By reducing public sector buffer stocks and introducing corporate-dictated contract farming and full-scale neoliberal marketization for the sale and procurement of produce, India will be sacrificing its farmers and its own food security for the benefit of a handful of unscrupulous billionaires.
As independent cultivators are bankrupted, the aim is that land will eventually be amalgamated to facilitate large-scale industrial cultivation. Indeed, a recent piece on the Research Unit for Political Economy site, 'The Kisans Are Right: Their Land Is At Stake', describes how the Indian government is ascertaining which land is owned by whom with the ultimate aim of making it easier to eventually sell it off (to foreign investors and agribusiness).
India could eventually see institutional investors with no connection to farming (pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, endowment funds and investments from governments, banks, insurance companies and high net worth individuals) purchasing land. This is an increasing trend globally and, again, India represents a huge potential market. The funds have no connection to farming, have no interest in food security and are involved just to make profit from land.
"The recent farm laws - if not repealed - will impose the neoliberal shock therapy of dispossession and dependency, finally clearing the way to restructure the agri-food sector. The massive inequalities and injustices that have resulted from the COVID-related lockdowns are a mere taste of what is to come. The hundreds of thousands of farmers who have been on the streets protesting against these bills are at the vanguard of the pushback - they cannot afford to fail. There is too much at stake," Todhunter concluded.
Agricultural capitalism in India
Indian farmers are fighting against corporatization of agriculture and land grab by the big corporations to establish full-fledged agricultural capitalism in India, according to Bhabani Shankar Nayak of the Counter Current. The farmers have realized it from their everyday experiences from the 1991 new economic reforms that all economic reform programs were carried out to promote and protect corporations and marginalized the masses. This realization has forced farmers to reclaim their citizenship rights over their own livelihoods and land by opposing the newly legislated agricultural black laws.
In spite of all nefarious strategies of misinformation campaigns, the Modi government has failed to contain the spread of the movement to different parts of the country, Nayak said adding: "More people have joined the movement since it began. The farmers protest movement has revived hopes of deepening democracy, solidarity and peace across borders. The farmers movement is a new form of class struggle that breeds regional and international solidarity and moves beyond immediate interests of farmers and their class interests. It inspires brotherhood and reclaims lost peace, democracy and citizenship rights in a period of organized deception of Hindutva fascists."
The defiance of the farmers protests are not only mounting pressure on the Government of India led by Narendra Modi but also exposed the naked foundation of Hindutva fascism and its relationship with capitalism, Nayak argued.
It has provoked international solidarity movements in support of Indian farmers. The solidarity protest movements in Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Pakistan, Korea, New Zealand, Portugal, United States of America, United Kingdom and in different parts of Europe have given a sense of internationalism. The farmer organizations and activists in Korea, Indonesia, Brazil, Portugal, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh have extended their solidarity with Indian farmers and demanded to roll back the agricultural reforms, according to Nayak.
The government had underestimated the farmers
Boosted by collaboration with big money power and a subservient mainstream media, BJP government of Prime Minister Modi got increasingly over-confident under the cover of the pandemic, two university professors Amit Bhaduri and Chaman Lal said in a joint comment on the ongoing protest.
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