Indian government to convene with farmers for negotiations

India Farmer Protests 12052
Photo: Associated Press, 2020

Indian government officials and union leaders representing Indian farmers will meet today for an eighth round of negotiations.

Today’s talks are the latest attempt to resolve a dispute between New Delhi and unions over agricultural reforms passed in September. Reform proponents contend that change is necessary to ensure agricultural production diversifies away from water-intensive crops, such as rice and wheat, that constitute much of India’s current output. The laws’ critics claim the legislation represents an attempt to concentrate industrial farming outfits’ market share. Further, despite government assurances that the laws will not undercut the Minimum Support Price upon which many farmers rely, the laws’ opponents maintain that the process by which the legislation was passed itself demonstrates a willingness to disregard farmers’ needs. Protests over the laws are ongoing.

While the government has pledged support for a continuation of guaranteed prices, it has refused an outright repeal of the legislation. The government is unlikely to concede today, as the ruling Bharaitya Janata Party (BJP) aims to curb spending on agricultural products and streamline national agricultural policies. In the medium term, if protesters’ demands are unmet, backlash against the BJP could prove politically problematic and may intensify the ongoing economic downturn.

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