March 8, 2021 By Ramona du Houx Hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have been protesting peacefully camping outdoors, in freezing winter and withstanding water cannons, tear gas, and barricades for months in the largest and longest sustained non-violent resistance movement in Indian, surpassing Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March against the British Colonial Salt Law in 1930. Over 200 have […]
Hundreds of thousands of farmers in India have been protesting peacefully camping outdoors, in freezing winter and withstanding water cannons, tear gas, and barricades for months in the largest and longest sustained non-violent resistance movement in Indian, surpassing Mahatma Gandhi’s Dandi March against the British Colonial Salt Law in 1930. Over 200 have died. Their struggle has united farmers across the country. Women from farm families are on the front lines.
Throughout the country, women have played a leading role in the protests that started last November. According to Reuters, in Ghazipur women participated in a sit-in, and close to 20 of them engaged in a hunger strike.
In June 2020, Prime Minister Modi introduced three new agricultural laws, without the consent or debate of Parliament and the country’s farmers, relying on pandemic conditions to muffle opposition. Each law targets an area in which current governmental regulations will be loosened: production, storage and crop sales. As a result, small-scale farmers, who represent close to 82 percent of the agricultural workforce, will be left with little control over the market, as corporations and private investors gain the upper hand. These laws essentially open the door to complete deregulation and corporatization of Indian agriculture.
America’s first–ever female, first Black, and first Asian American Vice President Kamala Harris’s mother immigrated from India. But there is very little reporting on the uprisings in the American press. It hasn’t been lost in the international media.
“The world has watched tens of thousands of Indian farmers and farm workers leave their fields for the streets to protest laws that did not go through the normal parliamentary procedures before being enacted,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, President of Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA), former State Representative (ME), former Marine Veteran. “At this historic moment Elected Officials to Protect America stands with Indian farmers in their struggle for survival, for justice, for democracy, for a say in determining and protecting their futures and that of successive generations.”
Approximately 800 million Indians’ primary source of livelihood is agriculture and they understand that such changes will effectively dismantle the basic support system that they rely on. Female farmers will be among some of the worst affected by the new laws.
According to Mahila Kisan Adhikaar, an Indian forum advocating for the rights of female farmers, 75 percent of all farm work is conducted by women yet they own only 12 percent of the land. Without land ownership, women are not recognized, despite their large contributions to the sector and makes them more vulnerable to exploitation by large corporations under the new laws.Land is sacred and a personal obligation to generational farmers, rooted in a rich ancestry and culture. Not to have a successful harvest means you’ve failed future generations. More than 10,000 Indian farmers, mostly women, took their own lives in 2019 following a bad season and the debt it created.
When the government intensified their efforts to vilify and criminalize the farmers, the protests became a movement to defend the democratic rights to free speech, assembly, and peaceful dissent enshrined in the Indian Constitution.
At least 40,000 women traveled to New Delhi on March 8,2021, International Women’s Day, to let the world know about their role in Indian agriculture and why they want the new laws repealed.
Farming is the main source of employment in India. According to the FAO farming contributes towards the livelihoods of up to 70 percent of rural households and employs 59 percent of the working population. With 82 percent small farms India is ranked first in the production of milk, and pulses, second for rice, wheat, sugarcane fruit vegetables and cotton in the world, the small farm model has been working.
“As a Co-Chair National Leadership Council for EOPA I’m proud that we are standing together with the Indian women farmworkers in the fight to repeal these unjust laws. They’re standing up for women everywhere. For in the words of Maya Angelou, ‘Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women,’” said State Representative Debbie Sarñana (NM), Air Force veteran (rt.) “The Indian farmer’s uprising has exposed the inequalities that shape Indian agriculture, as well as ours. The current fate of small-scale Indian farmers is linked to our history. Unjust laws in India led to protests. In America, unjust laws have plagued women farmers and farmers of color.”
U.S. policy supporting industrialization and consolidation in food production has perpetuated racial and ethnic inequities. Hundreds of millions in commodity subsidies in the farm bill, technology advances, trademarked plant and animal varieties, and access to international markets has accrued to the largest white owned farms. But farmers of color, immigrant farmers, and female farmers, who typically have smaller farms and grow higher-value, labor-intensive products have received far less government support.
In 2008, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) was ordered to pay out $1.33 billion to Latinx and female farmers who were denied loans because of their gender and race.
For decades USDA has discriminated against people of color and women farmers. According to the census 36 percent of U.S. farmers are women and 56 percent of all farms have at least one female decision maker. Yet, only 16 percent of women farmers, compared to 27 percent of men, earned over $50,000 in 2017, mainly due to the fact that women own smaller farms. Most women run smaller farms, are older, and more likely to be full owners of the land they farm.
The census also showed that the smallest farms make up 0.1 percent of all farmland, while the largest account for 58 percent. The large corporate agribusiness farms take the bulk of the profits. Just 5 percent of farming operations produced 75 percent of all sales in 2017.
Monsanto’s branch in India is against the farmers protests. Monsanto, now known as Bayer, is an American agrochemical and agricultural biotechnology corporation that encourages large-scale farming. In 2016 Monsanto spent $4,600,000 lobbying Congress.
In many counties where large-scale Western agricultural systems have been incorporated, the soil has been eroded, crops have failed and, exacerbated by climate change, migrations have started.