Farmers in Punjab protest for debt relief, higher produce prices

Farmers in Punjab protest for debt relief, higher produce prices

Today, farmers in the Indian state of Punjab will follow their colleagues in other parts of the country and protest

Photo: Reuters

Photo: Reuters

Today, farmers in the Indian state of Punjab will follow their colleagues in other parts of the country and protest to demand debt relief and higher prices for agricultural goods. Security forces will be on high alert after violent protests in the central state of Madhya Pradesh and western Maharashtra left at least a dozen dead last week.

Farmers were inspired by PM Narendra Modi’s promise to waive debt in Uttar Pradesh, a pledge made in February during that state’s election campaign. Other BJP-governed states are now following, with Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh also launching debt relief schemes. The domino effect threatens to undermine state budgets, with Bank of America Merrill Lynch forecast the cost of the entire program over the next two years could reach $40 billion.

Farming is big business in India, more than half of the 1.3 billion population being employed in the agriculture industry. But as other sectors of the Indian economy grow—particularly services—farming is becoming less important. Today, agriculture makes up just 14% the Indian economy’s value, down from more than 30% in the early 1990s. Regardless, to keep the hundreds of millions of agriculture workers onside ahead of the 2019 polls, the ruling BJP is likely to push ahead with costly debt relief measures.