The following statement was issued by GRAIN in support of the Indian farmers protest. It was sent to the Embassy of India in Spain, where the organisation is legally established, and was widely shared on our social media.
GRAIN extends its solidarity support to the Indian farmers protesting in Delhi since almost two weeks against the neoliberal agenda of the present government which aims to hand agriculture over to big corporations who long to capture the massive multi-billion dollar agri-retail market in India. The farmers are opposing three laws which were adopted in a hush-hush manner by Parliament last September without any consultation with farmers. These three laws fail to ensure a price support for farmers’ produce and deregulate markets, legalise contract farming without proper safeguards for farmers and allow the hoarding of food grains by corporations.
We are witnessing an unprecedented mass mobilisation against the Indian government’s pro-corporate policies, where more than a million farmers have blocked all major highways entering into the capital city. Women and men farmers from Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand are spending day and night, sleeping on the tar roads or in their makeshift shelters on tractor trollies amidst the bitter cold and coronavirus pandemic. Yet these poor farmers with small landholding (85 percent of Indian farmers have less than 1 hectare) have successfully managed to expose to the world the nexus between the agri-corporations and the government.
Despite six rounds of intense talks with protesting farmers, the government is not ready to withdraw the Acts. However it is ready to make amendments to certain provisions which, the farmers say, continue to be pro-business and anti-farmer. This indicates that farmers are right in demanding no less than the repeal of all three pieces of legislation.
Farmers are also demanding for a statutory provision to ensure guaranteed price support as well as public procurement of their goods at that price. Their fear is that if these Acts are not withdrawn, they will open the floodgates the total corporae takeover of Indian agriculture where small and marginal farmers will be left at the mercy of market prices or left to work as bonded labours in their own fields under the guise of contract farming.
The farmers successfully declared a nationwide strike on 8 December 2021, which was peacefully observed across the whole country. People from almost every section of society - lawyers, traders, workers, women groups, environmentalists, scientists, actors, sportsmen - are coming forward to extend their support to protesting farmers. From 12 December on, farmers are planning to further intensify their protests and plans to block the other major highways around Delhi and have called for a boycott of all the products of Reliance and Adani corporations, who are believed to be the main beneficiaries of these three farm legislations.
Immediately after the promulgation of ordinances back in June 2020, Reliance received foreign investment worth US$25 billion for its large retail and telecommunication. It also acquired the second largest chain of retail business in India, the Big Bazaar, for US$3.5 billion. Through the three laws, the government is forcing farmers to work for companies like Reliance along terms set by them.
News reports from across India also indicate that ordinary people support the farmers protests because they understand that government is compromising their food security by ensuring oligarchic control over retail in India. This will be a big blow to the livelihood of millions of small vendors and hawkers. Reams of research by GRAIN and others expose how retail monopolies by big corporations is a curse for small traders and compromises food security of the people at large.
GRAIN supports the Indian farmers who are firm in their determination to not let crony capitalism take over their agricultural activities. They must remain free to decide what they want to grow and how, and have legal assurance for fair and remunerative prices for their produce from the government.
The farmers’ protest in India is a living example of food sovereignty where farmers are fighting for their freedom, their right to continue farming, their ability to till their land without being pushed into bonded contracts and their right to get a guaranteed fair price for their products.