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Issue #1945      14th December, 2020

India on strike for its farmers

The Indian working class, organised under trade unions, progressive groups, and left parties, is preparing to begin its day-long strike as this article is being written on the 8th December, 2020. Calling it “Bharat Bandh,” which literally means “India Closed,” this strike is taking place as a show of solidarity for the Indian farmers that have been in an intense showdown with the Modi government for several days.

Tens of thousands of farmers from various Indian localities have marched into the capital, Delhi, with a set of demands for the government, mainly calling for the repealing of newly enacted Laws around agriculture and farmers. They have been met with police blockades, tear gas shelling, and water cannons, to prevent them from reaching the centre. Despite the obstacles the enormous wave of determined farmers is currently staging a sit-in in Delhi, and one round of talks with the government have already failed.

As a show of support for the farmers’ demands, the 8th December strike has been called by the organised working class across India.

Unsurprisingly, mainstream media has given little coverage to these events and has not provided a fair representation of the working-class issues at hand.


India is a large agricultural country with more than forty per cent of Indian workers involved in food production. Lack of protection for the farming workers of India against large corporations and banks has meant that farmers remain impoverished, indebted and farmer suicide has become endemic in India.

Despite being a large food producer, food insecurity remains a major issue. Undernourishment and malnourishment are very high, with India having a third of the world’s malnourished child population.


In the above context, instead of introducing policies and laws that improve the condition of the farmer and the average Indian, true to its capitalist nature, Narendra Modi’s government has instead introduced laws that further enable corporations and banks to exploit the farmers.

The following is a brief look at why the three Acts pertaining to Indian farmers and agriculture introduced by Modi are problematic.

1. Farmers Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act: Farmers enter into contracts with large agribusinesses that often dictate what the farmer grows, what seed they use, etc. Farmers are already at the mercy of such corporations and banks for their loans. This Act will make things worse by legalising a structure of such contracts that introduces more private parties able to exploit the farmers, including a private arbitrator that will oversee any disputes between the farmer and the corporations. The farmers will no longer be able to access civil courts of India for any breaches or disputes arising out of such contracts. Furthermore, the private parties, including private banks that lend money to farmers, will have the right to take away the land from the farmer if they find the farmer not fulfilling their part of the contract. In short, the corporations will become the jury, judge and executioner!

2. Essential Commodities Amendment Act: Previous policies had placed a limit on the hoarding of basic food items including grains, and vegetables such as potatoes, onions and tomatoes, which make up the main nutrition for a vast majority of Indians. This Act removes this hoarding limit. Eighty-two per cent of farmers in India are categorised as ‘small’ farmers which means they have less than five acres of land to work on and may still employ old agricultural practices such as the use of bullocks and carts. They are poor farmers and do not have the means to hoard what they produce. It is only the intermediaries that buy produce from these farmers at a low cost who can then hoard and sell it back at exorbitant prices. Such produce is also exported for larger profits, and again the result for the ordinary Indian consumer, which includes the farmers themselves, is high priced food.

This act will only further worsen food security for the Indian working class while making it easier for corporations to make more profit off the back of farmers.

3. Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act: This act aims to replace the previous state-governments’ instituted Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee (APMC) that ensured agricultural produce was sold through government regulated markets, with a free-market approach. This Act will thus undermine the minimum price set for each food item by the government and force farmers to undersell, while allowing agribusinesses to further enlarge their profits.

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