Unrest & a Resignation: Why Are Indian Farmers Up in Arms Over the New Farm Bill?


Unrest & a Resignation: Why Are Indian Farmers Up in Arms Over the New Farm Bill?

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

The central government’s decision to push through with three ordinances promulgated on June 5 has led to unrest among farmers in India. The backlash against these legislations was felt most keenly in Punjab and Haryana, where farmers have been organising protests against the The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020. The Bill to turn the third ordinance into an Act was passed in the Lok Sabha on September 15, and the first two are also listed for consideration in the Monsoon Session of the Parliament.

The farmers’ grievances are so deep-seated that it has led Harsimrat Kaur Badal, the Union Minister for Food Processing Industries, to step down from her seat in the Cabinet as a gesture of solidarity with the farmers. A member of the Shiromani Akali Dal, which has been an old ally of the BJP in the NDA coalition, Badal took this strong step after the BJP decided to push the Bills pertaining to these three ordinances through in Parliament, despite the Akali Dal’s request for a reprieve until the concerns of famers could be addressed. While the Akali Dal has not abandoned the NDA coalition, Badal’s decision to quit the Union Cabinet signals that all may not be well between the old friends.

In essence, what the farmers in India are protesting is a new set of laws that they believe will lead to monopolisation of their produce by large-scale buyers, hoarders, and corporates. Indian Express has carried a more in-depth explanation that details the provision of all three ordinances. To this end they have been vocally voicing their opinion by organising large protests all across Haryana and Punjab, despite authorities refusing to give them permission for the protests. Only last week, a group of protesting farmers in Haryana were lathi-charged by the police, in a story that received only a fraction of the attention more banal issues like Kangana Ranaut’s petty squabbles with personalities from the film industry did.

The impact of the ordinances being passed has led to a Cabinet Minister resigning. Badal has been replaced by Narendra Singh Tomar. It remains to be seen whether he will be as sympathetic toward the farmers’ cause as his predecessor.