The timing of Modi’s announcement to repeal the three controversial laws was, of course, political: The announcement was made in advance of upcoming elections in key states, and on the birth anniversary of the first Sikh guru, Guru Nanak. The Sikh community as a whole has been a pillar of support for the protesting farmers, and farmers from key states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab (where elections are due) form the backbone of the protests.
Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) — a united front of over 40 Indian farmers unions that has been leading the farmers’ strike — has rightly asked that the laws be repealed through parliamentary process. In a letter to the prime minister, they pointed out that the repeal of the three laws will meet just one of several demands made by the farmers’ unions. They have reiterated six other demands, three of them longstanding, including legally guaranteed Minimum Support Price (MSP) for all crops and for all farmers.
Global civil society organizations are continuing to stand in solidarity with Indian farmers and supporting their demands. The February 2021 solidarity statement specifically lifted up one of the key demands of the movement, asking for farmers to receive a minimum support price — currently assured for just a few crops — for all produce, including vegetables which are essential for healthy diets, and argued that this would ensure that farmers in India, already burdened by huge debts, receive a fair price for their produce.
Ensuring remunerative minimum support prices and procurement as a legal entitlement for all farmers and for all agricultural produce continues to be one of the most crucial demand of the farmers moving forward.
The concept of parity is grounded in fair prices for farmers, but it extends beyond that to issues of environmental, cultural and social justice for food producers and their communities. The solidarity statement acknowledged that “much work remains to be done on parity and environmental and racial justice in relation to food and agricultural policy domestically, as well as internationally.”
It is time that both the Indian and U.S. governments include parity pricing and public crop procurement to support independent family farmers and localized food systems, ensuring food sovereignty and securing the livelihoods of millions who are the bedrock of its food security and nutritional wellbeing.
In a letter to the Biden administration in October 2021, the U.S. farm, food and trade justice community lifted up some of the asks in the solidarity statement, asking that the Biden administration stop prioritizing the interests of agribusiness over small farmers, so abetting further corporatization of the food system here and in other countries.
The letter also called on the administration to endorse multilateral governance norms that will support other countries’ ability to transition to climate-resilient, biodiverse and water-conserving food systems that reach all producers.
Some state governments in India seem to be encouraging the Indian prime minster to take climate resilient actions as the center prepares to meet with five SKM leaders. The chief minister of Punjab in India has claimed in a recent interview that he has proposed to the prime minster that the farmers be encouraged to shift to organic production by offering higher minimum support prices for organic rice compared to conventional rice. Such a move for a major crop would not only help India to meet its climate commitments, but also help farmers transition to climate-resilient agroecological practices, enabling consumers access to a healthier food staple. This kind of progress should be the basis for new talks at the global level on trade, climate change, and human rights.
Originally published by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.