Thugs, parasites, terrorists and secessionists. That’s what the media has called the farmers who went on strike in India from October 2020 to February of 2021. Why is that when media tries to smear the working class for getting organized it sounds like a playground bully who found their dad’s thesaurus. But these are highly false accusations levied by the corporate and government controlled media organizations.
In order for them to be thugs, they’d have to be violent criminals committing violence for the sake of violence. All the violence these protesters faced came from the police. And all they did was defend themselves. Under Capitalism the only people that have a right to defend themselves are the oppressors. But I don’t see that as defending themselves, I see it as a temper tantrum. Most authoritarians are cry babies who’s parents didn’t teach them respect or discipline. The only type of government that would consider striking workers asking for better treatment and pay ‘thugs’ is an authoritarian one. And the only media outlet that would refer them as such is a propaganda outlet.
They’re not parasites because they’re not leeching off the system. If anything Capitalists are the parasites leeching off the labor of the working class to enrich themselves. They’re not terrorists considering they didn’t cause mass destruction. They did disrupt the status quo and daily life to call attention to their struggles.
They’re not secessionists because they’re not trying to secede from India. They want India to be a place where people can thrive doing what they want to and love to do. These farmers are fighting for their right to live a good life. That doesn’t mean they’re trying to form a whole new country, but rather create a country worth living in.
These farmers are pushing back against neoliberal policies that would lead to corporations and Big agricultural industries to come in and take their land. There are 3 laws specifically that were introduced in September 2020 that have major impacts to Indian agriculture. They dismantle decades of work done to improve the agricultural sector in India. The justifications for these laws are trying to revise the history of neoliberalism in India.
To understand the importance of the strike we have to go back to the 50s after Partition and British rule. At that time India primarily focused its efforts on industrialization by building more dams and irrigation systems, but neglected to bolster its agricultural sector. Even then a majority of jobs were in Agriculture. But who cares, it’s just food right? And the rich have heard that peasants don’t really need to eat. Just give them a few squirts of oil and they’ll be fine….oh what that’s robots! The rich are confusing workers for robot. Common mistake! The industrial sector did help increase job opportunities, but this caused an increase in food demands. And since agriculture wasn’t a focus, India had to import grains in order to prevent a nationwide famine.
India decided to go to the World Bank & the United States to get help. The US had be sending grains to but India’s foreign exports fund was running low. They paid the US in Indian Rupees so they wouldn’t go further into debt. And the US had to provide them with grain and food under Public Law 480. But the US saw an opportunity to get India to change its policies. As a Christian nation, America can’t pass up an opportunity to exploit.
India’s wars with China and Pakistan in the the early 60s and a drought shrank those foreign reserves even more. Proving again that wars are a huge waste of money and human lives. Instead of waging wars, they could’ve spent that money improving agricultural technology and feeding their citizens. At this point America was sending India less grain than they needed and it was low quality grain to boot. The quality was good enough to feed chickens but not humans. If there’s one thing you can say about America is that they’re consistent in their racism. Even when they’re trying to be humanitarian they’re racist.
In order to receive help from America and the World Bank, then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi made a deal to lift import curbs, deregulate a variety of industries, allow US fertilizer production and devalued the Indian rupee by 57%. And then the United States and the World Bank looked at India and said “new phone who dis”. They went back on their deal didn’t hold up their end of the bargain, furthering India in debt and causing their economy to crash. Much like a selfish lover, America got to the finish line and when it was India’s turn, America was already putting its pants back on. But it did leave India with cab fare…not enough…but some. America was on its way to fuck the Middle East whether they had the Mid East’s consent or not!
Clearly foreign aid wasn’t going to come anytime soon. The US bailed on them and at this point the UK was still pretty sore over losing their plans for global domination. In order to help improve the lives of smaller farmers across India, the country nationalized 14 private banks which were then able to offer loans and credits to farmers to purchase new technologies needed to keep up with larger farms. This increased the yield for farmers and therefore feed the people of India. This allowed the government to subsidize the private fertilizer manufacturers who then passed on those discounted prices to the farmers.
In 1960 the Minimum Support Price or MSP was set so farmers wouldn’t loose money on crops. The MSP covers the cost of cultivation and ensures the farmers get a reasonable income and is facilitated via the Food Corporation of India. The government then sells the food grains through the Public Distribution System which makes it easier for lower classes to get their food. They also hold excess grains in storage so Indians would still have food during a low yield year. For a brief moment it seems that India learned its lessons from the previous decade.
In order to prevent traders from undercutting and not paying farmers states set up the Agricultural Produce Marketing Committees to regulate these yards and ensure the traders are meeting the MSP for the farmers. The more market yards there are the better it was for smaller farmers, since their transportation costs would be less.
Politicians saw empowering the rural communities and the working class a danger that would lead to them moving up the caste system. They quietly feared the rise of Communism and Socialism in India, even though it was Socialism that saved the country. So in order to create a divide within the peasantry, they empowered some of the rich peasants with government bank credits and the smaller farmers were forced to go to exploitative money lenders. This put these smaller farmers in a debt trap to get newer farming technologies and keep up the some of the bigger farms. This also cause a divide within the classes.
By the 90s, India made deals with the International Monetary Fund, or IMF, & the World Bank. If the IMF sounds familiar, it’s because they’re the gangster monetary organization that paid former Ecuadorian President, Lenin Moreno, $4 billion bounty to illegally remove Julian Assange from asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in the UK. This deal deregulated the banks, crushing a majority of public banks that were helping smaller farmers stay out of debt and ensured the Indian working class would be the victims of the failures of Capitalism.
In 1995 India joins the World Trade Organization which pitted the smaller farmers against the large agribusiness of more industrialized nations who were receiving subsidies from the Indian Government. This led to companies like Monsanto, known for creating suicide seeds, buying up or running out smaller farmer who commit suicide. So really Monsanto is a corporation who’s product is suicides. Capitalism will find a way to put a dollar sign on anything and everything. This created an agrarian crisis and led to starvation the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the British Rule of India.
So in less than a 100 years after India gained its independence, they partnered with a new imperial force and repeated the cycle of classism, poverty and suffering caused by an invading foreign force. Great job everyone! Who needs sovereignty & freedom when we have a globally dominating imperial force crushing rights non stop you can partner with!
In the early 2000s, the government decided to enhance the welfare and well-being of farmers and their workers. They implemented a rural employment guarantee program which promised at least 100 days of work for agricultural workers and provided funds to improve agriculture technologies and increased water tables in regions that were prone drought! This was the first time in decades farmers income rose by 8%!
But don’t worry, the Indian government in cahoots with private industries displaced these farmers and the rural communities to control agriculture, minerals and forest communities. They did this through fraud and non-payment schemes concocted by the privatized banks, which made industrialists like Mukesh Ambani a billionaire overnight!
Its funny that we never see the working scheming as much. We’re trying to live the best lives we can and create a bright future for the next generations. But the rich, like a real life Bond villain, are cooking plans and schemes in a back room. If they used that energy for positive means we’d likely eradicate poverty and suffering as we know. But no, we have to have dick measuring contests about who can cause the most suffering on the planet! And then they have the balls to talk about productivity!
Which brings us to the Modi government who destabilized the rural communities even more by demonetizing 80% of the currency in India and implementing a Goods & Service that impacted farmers over the traders.
All of that has culminated to the new set of laws pushed by the Modi Government to deregulate the traders, remove the MSP, remove foods like potatoes, onions and pulses from the essential foods list. If you’ve ever eaten in an Indian restaurant, then you know that these are essential vegetables to make about 98% of Indian dishes. These are laws are not only disrupting the livelihoods of these farmers, but they’re also disrupting all our taste buds. Laws like this are going to make Indian food as bland as English and American foods…which might be the plan all along! Look all foods are essential. It’s a basic need and laws like this are trying to control that.
Propaganda pushed forward by neoliberal, neofascist elites always try to downplay and hide their own history of atrocities. The farmers in India have had to deal with these types of politicians for decades. They’re the life blood of India. They’re quite literally feeding the nation. Instead of propping them up these elites have use economics as a way to control and limit their growth. Capitalism is touted as a system that saves lives, but India is proof that it doesn’t. It created more famine and led to more suicides than any other economic system in the planet. Thugs, Parasites, Terrorists & Secessionists are all terms that are applicable to Capitalists, not striking farmers!
Krish Mohan is a socially conscious, Indian standup comedian and writer who regularly tours the country. He performs at small theaters, bars, comedy clubs, colleges, DIY and house venues. With his quirky attitude, charming personality, and intelligent humor, Krish captivates and engages audiences of all backgrounds, tackling hot button topics like race, religion, war, immigration, while adding an optimistic, philosophical & sociological twist!