Indian farmers to hold nationwide strike

Indian labour unions have called for a nationwide strike today to protest the government’s controversial agricultural reforms. More than four

REUTERS 2

Photo: REUTERS

Indian labour unions have called for a nationwide strike today to protest the government’s controversial agricultural reforms.

More than four months have passed since Indian farmers—mostly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh—begun protesting New Delhi’s liberalisation of the historically government-backed farming sector. At issue, India’s farming sector has seen minimal modernisation since the Green Revolution and the country is in dire need of agricultural reform. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s reforms, which seek to end the monopoly that government-run wholesale markets have over agricultural product sales, has incited fear among some farmers that price volatility will hurt their livelihoods.

Though India’s grain farmers represent a significant portion of Modi’s constituency, the ongoing protests have so far been insufficient in influencing genuine progress in talks between farmer unions and government representatives. Currently, the government’s behavior seems unlikely to change, despite international condemnation for violently cracking down on the mostly peaceful protests.

Though US pushback against the reforms could influence Modi’s thinking, it is unlikely as Washington has supported efforts to increase private sector investment and market efficiency in India. Likewise, change remains unlikely but possible if farmers can sustain protests long enough to cause significant supply chain disruptions.

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