Farmers Aren’t Happy Around the World

Human Rights India

             Delhi        You know there’s something afoot when people know you are flying through Delhi and not just one, but several of them, send you links about the way that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is teargassing farmers who are once again this year planning a siege of Delhi and heading here now, only 125 or so miles away.  With elections coming up and Modi trying for a third consecutive term, this is not a good look.

Farmers blockaded India’s capitol city two years ago in an almost year-long protest.  This year the protest, largely coming from Punjab and Haryana, large states in northern India, is driven by complaints from the protestors that the government didn’t keep its word last time.  They want price supports and caps on fuel costs.  The government is saying it is open to more talks, but showing the iron fist with the velvet glove.  Thousands of police and paramilitary are encircling the city of Delhi to keep the famers out of town with their giant tractors and teargassing them along the route to make the point.

The farmers are reportedly passing out gas masks.  Ten thousand are massed at the border of the northern states.  Their demand is straightforward.  They want MSP and more.

Minimum support price (MSP) is a guaranteed price that allows farmers to sell most of their produce at government-controlled wholesale markets, or mandis. The farmers are also demanding that the government fulfil its promise of doubling their income, and withdraw court cases filed against farmers during the previous protest.

This mess looks like it is a long way from being over.

Speaking of not being over, it was only weeks ago that headlines everywhere focused on farmer protests in France overprices and rising fuel costs, along with new regulations being proposed by the government.  The government retracted some of the regulations and somehow managed to spin the story as resolved with the FNSEA, the largest farmers’ union, asking that hundreds of road blockades be dismantled.  Talking to our French affiliates put the kibosh on that story quickly.  There are a number of farmers’ unions in France, and several of the more aggressive didn’t agree with the government’s concessions and have kept at it.  Now the head of FNSEA is feeling the heat and complaining that the government hasn’t moved fast enough and is hanging them out to dry and threatening to hit the streets again, no doubt also being embarrassed by the other union’s continued militancy.

This may not signal a revival of farmer protests from decades ago in the United States, at least not yet, but farmer protests like these in India and France, and more recently in the Netherlands as well, are spreading around the globe.  With the number of farmers – and ranchers – dropping like a rock with urbanization, the rise of monopolies, and economic issues this is a problem coming right to our kitchens, if governments don’t stop pretending this is all going away.  In these situations, protest is more organic for people than anything being pulled out of the ground.  Price controls seem like the lowest hanging fruit to meet the current crisis, while everyone tries to find some real solutions.