Indian Farmers Protest Amid Agrarian Crisis

An Indian farmer in his field of cauliflower in the state of Maharashtra

An Indian farmer in his field of cauliflower in the state of Maharashtra

Around 100,000 farmers and activists demonstrated in New Delhi to demand debt relief and higher Minimum Support Prices (MSPs) for their crops on November 29. MSPs are the rate at which the government buys crops from farmers to ensure a liveable amount of profit. The protestors, victims of an agrarian crisis, came from all across the nation. Twenty-one political parties, prominent singers and poets, and members of 207 independent farming unions united under the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee (AIKSCC) to protest for their cause, according to HuffPost.

The farmers claimed that the government’s impotence has driven 300,000 farmers to commit suicide from 1995-2015, Zee News reported. According to Times Now, activist Yogendra Yadav said that “the government has not done anything for the farmers,” and advocated for “the government to immediately waive-off loans” and “legal[ly] guarantee their remunerative prices.”

Although Indian agriculture underwent a Green Revolution from 1970-1990, agricultural growth slowed dramatically after 1990. Professor Mankombu Sambasivan Swaminathan, a leading geneticist during India’s Green Revolution, was commissioned by the government to research the causes of the crisis, and his reports from 2004-2006 serve as the foundation of the farmers’ demands of the government.

PRS Legislative Research and the Global Subsidies Initiative in conjunction with the Indian Federation of Environmentalist Journalists report that India’s agricultural productivity per hectare lags far behind China, France, and other competitive nations. Additionally, land ownership has significantly declined among Indian farmers, with 80 percent of them owning less than two hectares of land. With declining crop prices, increasing fuel and fertilizer cost, droughts and adverse weather events, poor infrastructure, and little crop varieties, farmers are constantly put under enormous economic pressure. Zee News reported that the typical farmer’s wage is 247 rupees, or $3.50 per day. These economic pressures and lack of government aid have driven hundreds thousands of farmers to commit suicide, and even more still, approximately 2,000 farmers a day, to abandon farming for other jobs in urban areas by India Today’s numbers.

Though the Swaminathan reports sugessted redistributing land ownership, increasing payments, improving irrigation, promoting farmer education, and providing credit structures and relief in times of emergency, the government has made little progress to achieving these goals. The Hindustan Times reports that it might not be feasible for the national government to meet the farmers’ demands for loan forgiveness. The last time a loan waiver system was implemented, inflation of food prices ultimately hurt the economic situation and hindered the government’s investments in infrastructure. Regardless, farmers hope to obtain larger MSP’s and some debt relief by advocating for a special 21-day Parliament session to discuss the agrarian crisis.