Green Gazette: Indian Farmers Strike

This edition of Green Gazette includes updates on farmer strikes in India, pesticide research, nocturnal pollinators, and much more.

At points along Delhi’s border roads, protestors have gathered to urge the repeal of the farm bills.
Photo by Adobe Stock/Matyas Rehak

In September 2020, the Parliament of India passed three agricultural acts, or “farm bills,” that sparked massive and sustained demonstrations across the country. Since then, tens of thousands of protestors have gathered along Delhi border roads to urge the immediate repeal of these bills, alongside other demands put forth by farmer unions.

In late November, Indian trade unions claim that 250 million people in India joined a 24-hour general strike to support the farmers’ demands, and over the past six months, people throughout India and around the world have held rallies in solidarity. Such widespread and consistent participation makes this the largest ongoing demonstration in the world, and, many sources say, likely the largest in human history.

The three bills together, according to the Government of India’s Press Information Bureau, would allow for intra- and interstate trading and online trading; enable farmers and buyers to enter exclusive contractual agreements; and restrict the government’s ability to regulate the production, supply, and distribution of certain commodities. With those restrictions in place, markets and prices for certain commodities would no longer be regulated. In their response to the protests, government officials claim the bills will give farmers expanded market access and greater flexibility, but the farmers say these bills will pave the way for a more privatized system that leaves them less protected from corporate exploitation and hoarding, and left with no alternatives. In the Deccan Herald, food sovereignty activist Vandana Shiva writes that the bills “could dismantle India’s centuries-old biodiversity-based, small farmer-centered tradition of Atma Nirbhar [self-reliance] of small farmers, and 70 years of a regulatory system to protect small farms, small farmer livelihoods, livelihoods of millions of workers and small traders in [agricultural markets], the right to food, and the food sovereignty of the country.”

About 70 percent of India’s rural population relies on agriculture for their livelihood.
Photo by Adobe Stock/

Farmers make up a large portion of India’s population and are foundational to its economy; according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, about 70 percent of India’s rural population relies on agriculture for their livelihood, and a majority of those farmers operate small farms. Further, The New York Times reports that the pandemic has intensified the strains placed on India’s agricultural workforce. Plus, Indian farmers have already faced decades of famine, climate disruption, and debts.

The farmer unions have met with Parliament for 11 rounds of talks at the time of this writing, and remain in a stalemate.

Though the farmers’ demonstrations have been largely nonviolent, the protest has occasionally escalated. A parade on Republic Day, an Indian national holiday, included a thousands-strong convoy of tractors that diverted from the sanctioned route, according to The Associated Press, and drove into the New Delhi city center, where some of the protestors confronted police forces, eventually breaking through the barricades and entering the Red Fort of Delhi. Afterward, additional barricades were constructed to limit the farmers’ movement, but the farmers have said they’ll continue to nonviolently protest and refuse to compromise. 

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