Farmers Gather in New Delhi Protesting Against Modi’s Government
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his political party, Bharatiya Janata Party, BJP, face increasing backlash as thousands of farmers and rural laborers joined in protest on Friday, November 30. Farmers marched at the Indian Parliament in New Delhi to express their anger at the decreasing crop prices, export curbs and anti-inflation policies which have led to the suppression of income for farmers.
The protest was organized by All Indian Kisan Sabha, AIKS, the working-class labor front for India’s Communist party. Farmers from over 200 different groups participated in the march. Other groups, like army veterans, joined in support to raise awareness of the implementation of the veterans’ pension plan.
“We want the government to change the parameters used for declaring a drought. We also want the government to waive all the outstanding agricultural loans of farmers. Their outstanding electricity bills should also be waived,” said Ajit Navale, the general secretary of AIKS in Maharashtra.
They demand a blanket loan waiver, crop subsidies, mandatory crop procurement by the government. A key part of their demands is the “C2+50%” demand, by which farmers will receive a 50 percent return over their labor payments, rent, and other farm expenses.
Modi’s policy of demonetizing the 500 and 1000 rupee notes has negatively impacted the income of farmers as most of them receive their payments in cash. Along with demonetization, the Modi government has implemented low import taxes on food and has restricted overseas sales of certain crops. While the BJP party promises development initiatives for sanitation, roads and improved access to electricity, these initiatives are not enough to support the struggling farmer.
“Government says they are working to double farmers’ income, but instead of rising, crop prices are falling. We sold soybean at 5,000 rupees (per 100 kg) in 2014 and now we are getting 2,900 rupees,” explained Anil Verma, a farmer from Sehore, a district in Madhya Pradesh.
Farmers will not be ignored. The agriculture industry contributes to a substantial portion of India’s economy, about 15 percent, which is approximately $2.6 trillion.
The movement has gained widespread support over the years as violence against farmers has increased in the past two years. In the last two years, 26 farmers have been shot by the police, and in the past 25 years, 400,000 farmers have committed suicide.
Farmers account for 263 million votes in the elections. With the upcoming 3-state election in Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan, the farmers constitute an important voting unit. The election in Madhya Pradesh is expected to be a highly contentious election as six of the 26 farmers shot were killed in that state during protests in 2017. The election’s results will be released on December 11.
Sanjay Mookim, an equity strategist, explains that a weak performance by the BJP in the election forecasts an unstable coalition government in future times. Political strategists indicate that if the BJP is unsuccessful, they will have to rethink their tactic in the upcoming general election next year in May.