Protesters call for December 8 ‘Bharat Bandh’ . . .
Farmers and opposition parties in India are preparing for a general strike, or ‘Bharat Bandh,’ on Tuesday, a significant ratcheting-up of ongoing protests. They are protesting new agricultural laws passed earlier in the year by the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The laws would allow farmers to sell to buyers other than the state-regulated Agricultural Produce Market Committees (APMCs) and would allow producers and purchasers to directly negotiate contracts. Farmers and their supporters believe the changes will transfer power to large corporate buyers and threaten the long-standing Minimum Price Support (MSP) program that guarantees minimum prices for farmers while providing affordable food staples to low-income Indians. The Bharat Bandh is supported by many opposition parties at the federal and state levels, and major trade and transport unions.
Talks ongoing, major protests in Punjab, Haryana states . . .
The majority of protests are centred in the states of Punjab and Haryana in India’s northwest. They are also the states where farmers benefit most from the MSP and where the perceived threat to current price supports is strongest. The national BJP government has offered to amend the agricultural laws, although protesters are demanding they be repealed. Talks are ongoing, with the next round scheduled for Wednesday. The Ministry of Home Affairs has asked all states and union territories to strictly enforce COVID-19 protocols and make appropriate security arrangements at the protests.
Trudeau wades in . . .
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and some MPs have spoken out in support of India's protesting farmers and their right to peaceful protest. India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other Indian government officials termed Trudeau’s comments as interference in Indian affairs and aimed at gaining political points in Canada. The BJP has also pointed out that Trudeau’s comments run contrary to Canada’s push at the World Trade Organization to eliminate export subsidies and reduce trade-distorting domestic support, especially in large developing economies such as India, China, and Indonesia. Meanwhile, support rallies for India’s farmers have been held in cities across Canada, including in Vancouver, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto.