Solidarity with International Workers: India

India’s population is at about 1.38 billion people, with over 115 million of them being farmers. India is responsible for about 25% of the world’s produce, with the main crops being wheat, rice, sugarcane, and numerous spices.  

The current ruling party in India is the BJP, or the Bharatiya Janata Party, whose ideas revolve around right-wing extremism. A little over a year ago, they passed the 3 farm bills: The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce Bill, Farmers Agreement of Price Assurance Bill, and the Essential Commodities Bill. These three bills call for the privatization and push for corporate farming in India, putting millions of local farmers out of work or leaving them to be exploited by the farming industry.  

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the UN, “70 percent of [India’s] rural households still depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood, with 82 percent of farmers being small and marginal.” With the little money and little legal support they have, these local farmers are easily ending up into the exploitative claws of private landowners, businessmen, and corporations.  

Before the three bills were passed, the existing agricultural system was similar to the one that existed in the USSR in the mid-1900s. Farmers were insured a minimum support price (MSP) for the crops they produced, allowing food security for the nation as well as a somewhat stable source of income for the farmers. Due to this, when you see pictures of these  protests, you often see the farmers holding red flags with a hammer and sickle in hand. With a corporate takeover, corporations would end up buying the farmers’ produce at cheap prices and sell them at unreasonably high prices, making the financial situation for the farmer worse than before.  

In retaliation, for the past several months, labor unions and farmers in general have organized strikes and protests. Luckily, the farmers have received a lot of media coverage— domestically and internationally— the BJP, especially considering the next presidential election is around the corner.  

During the week of the 18th of October, the SKM (a coalition of 40 Indian  farmer unions), led a massive protest. The protest, “Rail Roko” (which means stop the railway in Hindi), was calling for the repeal of the three farming bills. Thousands of farmers sat on the railway tracks, halting over 200 trains and affecting over 100 locations.  

Is this affecting us though (in the US)? India is the lead exporter of pepper cardamom, turmeric, and so many other spices. They’re also the lead producer of cotton, meaning most of the cotton clothes you wear are produced by an Indian farmer. This is an issue that affects your pantries, as well as your closets. It’s important for us to keep ourselves updated on international labor rights issues and movements to make sure we support the backbone of our society: farmers.  

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