Despite the rising cases of COVID-19 in India, farmers are continuing to protest against the government’s three agricultural reforms passed in September 2020. They have made it clear that they want the laws repealed and are demanding the government to provide a guaranteed price for their products. These farmers have also rejected the government's offer to suspend the implementation of the three laws for 18 months. This response is not surprising since agriculture is a primary source of income for 58% of India's population.
Tens of thousands of farmers have built camps surrounding Delhi. Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella body representing the protesters, stated that at least 147 farmers have died during the protests due to suicide, road accidents, cold weather conditions, and more.
However, the government is sticking to its statement that the laws are necessary for the modernization of India's agricultural sector. It believes that a lot of the farmers’ anger stems from misinformation on what the laws are saying. According to the government, here are some of the changes the acts will bring:
- The Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act will give farmers the freedom to sell their produce anywhere in the country. It expands the scope to allow for electronic trading and e-commerce of scheduled farmers' produce. Moreover, it further prohibits state governments from levying any market fee or levy on farmers, traders, and electronic trading platforms for the trade of farmers' produce carried out in an “outside trade area.”
- The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act will create a framework for farmers wishing to enter into pre-arranged contracts with buyers.
- The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act will give the government the power to regulate certain food items in extraordinary situations like war or famine.
However, the farmers are not convinced since they always had the freedom to sell anywhere in India. Instead, they are accusing the government of avoiding its responsibility to make sure farm produce can be acquired at the minimum support price (MSP), which means the reforms will leave them defenseless against the corporations that can now freely enter the Indian farming industry with no government measures in place. In response to the rising protests, the Supreme Court of India issued a stay order on the implementation to hear out the farmers' objections.
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