On 5 January, British MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi wrote a letter to Boris Johnson urging him to convey to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi the “heartfelt anxieties” of MPs’ constituents (many emanating from Punjab) regarding the treatment of protesting farmers in India. The letter was signed by more than 100 MPs and Lords and had cross-party support.
Dhesi stated that many constituents had been horrified to see footage of water cannon, tear gas and brute force being used against protesting farmers on the outskirts of Delhi. He made it clear to Johnson that farmers were protesting against major corporates moving into India’s farming sector. Johnson was asked if he could clarify whether he understood the issue (a previous baffling statement by him indicated that he did not) and whether he agreed that everyone has a fundamental right to peaceful protest.
The letter was written against the backdrop of an Indian diaspora community in Britain that had taken to the streets in support of Indian farmers who are demanding the repeal of three farm laws that were forced through the Indian Parliament. These laws could pave the way for the dismantling of the minimum support price (MSP) system, leaving farmers at the mercy of powerful corporate players.
The Landworkers’ Alliance (a UK cooperative) recently posted a link to a campaign page urging people in Britain to write to their MPs asking them to support farmers in India.
The campaign explains that the legislation will:
“… loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce, allowing a farm sector which has historically been protected by government regulation to be liberalised and opened to corporate investment.”
It says that India will be taken down the route that the UK has already followed towards the consolidation and industrialisation of the agriculture sector:
“… this is a path for agriculture that consolidates the control of corporations and supermarkets and negatively impacts the independent SME farming sector, destroying our food sovereignty.”
India is still very much an agrarian-based society with over 60 per cent of the population still depending (directly or indirectly) on agriculture for a living. The campaign notes that India’s states have strong powers to provide a guaranteed minimum price to farmers,