Today I'm going to explain a little bit about the current protests taking place in India.
A Brief Outline
Thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of Delhi since November after the Indian government passed three new and contentious agricultural laws, affecting 146 million farmers. The legislation impacts crops ranging from rice to cotton and therefore, consumers around the world.
The Indian government argues this legislation will give farmers more freedom and control over the sale of their own crops. However, without any guaranteed government set pricing, which has stabilised crop cycles for decades, farmers are no longer ensured a stable livelihood and income to invest in the next crop cycle.
Protesters believe that this decrease in trade regulation will give buyers access to a wider pool, in turn, driving down prices with no guarantees on minimum pricing. With lower returns, farmers will struggle to stay afloat and therefore, will likely be forced to sell their land to larger corporations, taking power away from agricultural workers.
What has happened as a result?
Farmers want the legislation completely scrapped however the government has argued for it to be suspended for 18 months.
Hundreds of protesters have been detained, with both police and protesters injured in violent clashes. Sadly, around 50 farmers are reported to have died.
The Indian government has used internet shutdowns for prolonged periods, as a means to silence protesters in the past and have used this again for the current protest, in order to prevent protesters from sharing information.
A Focus on Cotton
Over the years, our need in the West for cheap and fast fashion has driven the prices of cotton down, making profits for retailers but negatively impacting those lower down the supply chain who were already struggling.
India produces 25% of the world's cotton. The desperate need for cotton has forced farmers to turn to using heavy fertilisers which poison local water supplies. Crops in recent years have been damaged by droughts, rising temperatures and storms caused by climate change.
For farmers who are already struggling, this deregulation agenda removes a guaranteed minimum price for crops leaving them vulnerable to exploitation by large corporations. This increases inequality; workers rights and labour regulations are at risk.
We benefit from the labour of these men and women which is why we should support them.