72nd Republic Day marred by farmer clashes . . .
Today, on India’s 72nd Republic Day, angry farmers broke away from an agreed tractor protest route and stormed the historic Red Fort in the capital of New Delhi, clashing with police only a few kilometres from where both India’s Prime Minister and President were attending a Republic Day parade. For months, thousands of Indian farmers have been protesting on the outskirts of India’s national capital region against three controversial farm bills. The states of Punjab and Haryana are now on high-alert, and parts of New Delhi have a heavy paramilitary presence and internet shutdowns.
Revoke the farm bills, not delay, say farmers . . .
The Indian government insists the farm bills will reform India's agriculture sector, benefitting farmers directly by abolishing the complex structure of commission agents who mediate between the farmers and traders at agricultural markets, or mandis. But farmers fear the policies will remove government-guaranteed minimum support prices for key crops and subject them to corporate exploitation, devaluing the crops and exacerbating farmers' woes. Recently, the Indian government proposed delaying the farm bills' implementation by 18 months and setting up a joint committee to liaise with farmers. The farmers, however, have rejected the offer and continue to demand the bills’ complete revocation.
Canadian interests in the Indian farmer protests . . .
Over the past months, members of the Indo-Canadian diaspora, many of whom have family and friends directly impacted by the farm bills, have set up support rallies across Canada. Supporters have faced a number of challenges, including the organizer of a weekend rally at the Vancouver Art Gallery cautioning of a possible fascist presence. The Vancouver rally remained peaceful, with a significant local police presence. Meanwhile, experts believe that if the Indian farmers' fears are proved right, and market dynamics lead to lower prices for Indian farmers and higher prices for Indian consumers, then the farm bills could indirectly benefit Canadian farmers who could find new avenues for exporting agricultural commodities to India. The implications for agricultural markets in India are unclear as the bills remain suspended.