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17 Dec 2020

Dr Gunisha Kaur & Simran Singh, CNN

Opinion: Critics denounce Indian agriculture reforms as empowering large agribusinesses, pushing Punjab’s small-scale farmers further into precarity & debt

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“Indian farmers are right to be outraged”, 11 December 2020

Tens of thousands of farmers have marched to the Indian capital of New Delhi from neighboring states to protest new legislation that hurts small farmers and benefits large corporations.

… The lives and livelihoods of Indian agricultural workers -- who make up more than half of India's workforce -- have long been secondary to the national interest of feeding the masses.

… [R]emoving its existing price guarantees for crop sales only empowers these corporations by requiring farmers to negotiate with them individually. That means that as these corporations increase market supply, small farmers will struggle to compete and be pushed further into debt.

The bleak economic outlook has contributed to psychological degradation in the region. Punjabi farming communities have been ravaged by an epidemic of farmer suicides … 90,000 Punjabi farmers committed suicide between 1990 and 2006. In the last two years alone [there have been] … 1,000 cases…

The future also looks bleak from an environmental perspective. The Indian government continues to divert Punjab's waters to other, non-agricultural states … recent data suggest that Punjab's groundwater sources are likely to run dry by 2039…

The first and most obvious step is to repeal the recent laws and give farmers in India the same support they have in other countries around the world. India must meet their demands and enforce minimum price support for crops…

In addition to regulating large companies, India must also adhere to existing legislation that would protect the soil, water and bodies of the Indian people…

… By putting its perceived interests over the well-being of its people, the Indian government is not just harming those it is meant to serve. It is also undermining itself and putting the country's stability at risk.