Farmers protest in India

As farmers in India continue to protest against new agricultural laws, the University of Georgia’s Doctors Without Borders raised $5,245 for aid efforts through an online fundraiser.

India’s farmers have been protesting since last fall against laws implemented in September, according to the Associated Press. The laws removed minimum guaranteed prices for agricultural products, effectively privatizing the agricultural industry. In December 2020, farmers entered New Delhi, the capital of India, in protest.

The protests may have been the largest protest in human history, according to Slate. Upwards of 250 million people were demonstrating at the height of the protests.

Before the laws were implemented, farmers could sell their goods to the government, which had a mandated minimum price it had to offer, according to AP. Now, farmers must negotiate directly with private companies in order to sell their products. This means they may not make enough money to support their families, said Sumeet Goraya, a UGA alumnus.

“That makes it tougher for the farmers to have an established, ‘OK, we have this minimum support price, so we know exactly that we will be selling this for this amount at least, and we’ll be able to live off of that.’ Now they have to be at the will of the free market,” Goraya said.

Goraya said farmers may now be forced to accept lower prices from corporations for their agricultural goods, corporations that will make a profit by reselling the goods at higher prices. Traveling to negotiate with other companies is costly, and many farmers have perishable goods that won’t last over a journey, Goraya said.

Narendra Modi, the prime minister of India, said the laws will boost production through private investment, according to AP. The government has offered to amend the laws and suspend their implementation, according to AP, but farmers want a full repeal.

Efforts in Athens

Nearly 8,000 miles away from New Delhi, UGA’s chapter of Doctors Without Borders raised $5,245 for aid organizations to help the farmers. Justin Abes, DWB’s secretary, said the fundraiser was completely virtual. The funds will go to the nonprofits Khalsa Aid, Sahaita and Doctors Without Borders.

Abes said the goal of the fundraiser was twofold — to raise money and awareness of the protests. He hopes to educate the people that follow UGA’s DWB about the farmers’ situation and how the effects of the laws and protests may have wide-ranging impacts.

“If you look at many of the spices in your own pantry, they come from these farmers in India,” Abes said.

‘Coming together’

The majority of the farmers are from the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, which are two of the largest agricultural states in India, according to AP. Many of them are Sikhs, a religious minority, in India.

Goraya said although the laws affect the Sikh population of India significantly, they also affect farmers as a whole across India.

“Farmers of all over India are coming together,” Goraya said. “It’s important to show that democracy is for the people and of the people. And seeing people … of all different minority groups, religions, races, ethnicities, to come together to do so is important.”

Goraya said he would like to see media companies focus more on the content of the bills themselves in order to explain the impacts they have on farmers and the economy.

Harshpreet Kaur, a member of the Sikh Student Association at UGA, said the fact that the farmers are Sikh adds another level of scrutiny to the protests. Media coverage is impacting the way the protests are seen in India and around the world, Kaur said.

“Just because they are protesting and a big portion of them are Sikhs, they’re labeled as terrorists,” said Kaur, who was born in Patiala, Punjab.

Some of Kaur’s family members have gone to the protests and helped out. Kaur said the protests have brought a sense of community among people protesting and those helping out by providing supplies, such as food and water.

Goraya emphasized the ripple effect that the farmers have on the people that live in India, not just the farmers themselves.

“It’s not just them [the farmers], but it’s also the people of India. Because if it affects the farmers, it affects everyone,” Goraya said. “No farmers, no food.”