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  • Farmers block railroad tracks near Amritsar, India, Sept. 24, 2020.

    Farmers block railroad tracks near Amritsar, India, Sept. 24, 2020. | Photo: EFE

Published 25 September 2020
Opinion

The impoverished farmers argue that pro-market policies will take away their bargaining power when selling their products to entrepreneurs.

Thousands of small farmers on Friday blocked roads and railways to protest against the new laws that will allow large companies to affect agricultural product prices and make working conditions more precarious.

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"Farmers, citizens, and students have joined the resistance to protest across India," former Communist Party (CPIM) lawmaker Hannan Mollah said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration defends the reforms arguing that they will increase private investment in the agricultural sector, which generates 15 percent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Opposition parties and social organizations, however, have strongly criticized these reforms because of their obvious consequences.

"The peasants will be destroyed. We will not allow the government to turn the farmers into slaves of the corporate world," said Mollah.

In the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, where most of the country's wheat is grown, farmers reject so-called "contract farming" and price deregulation.

In addition, the new laws will allow large merchants to purchase agricultural products in quantities greater than those allowed in the state-owned wholesale markets called “Mandis”.

The government maintains that the changes will benefit farmers by allowing them to get better prices through a free-market economy.

This supposed benefit, however, is questioned by farmers, who are part of one of the poorest and most oppressed social groups in India, a country where thousands of small producers commit suicide every year because they cannot pay their debts.

The impoverished farmers argue that pro-market reforms will take away their bargaining power when selling their products to entrepreneurs.

"Besides paving the way for dangerous contract farming designed to favor business, the new laws create the possibility that the government will stop buying agricultural products at guaranteed minimum selling prices," said Vijoo Krishnan, the secretary of the "All India Kisan Sabha" Union and leader of the Movement for Land Rights.

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