India's Farmer Protests: Why Are They So Angry?
Next on a protest movement in India. It has drawn the interest of pop stars and climate activists and sent people into the streets for a cause. What's fascinating about the cause they're fighting for, is how unfasten ating it initially seems, farmers are protesting over new rules for wholesale markets. One of those rules matter so much. The answer reveals something about a giant nation, its past and its possible future. NPR's Lauren Frayer begins at one of the markets in western India. Yeah, I like. Okay, So this is a wholesale market and sort of a dusty lot between looks like warehouses here. Yes. Yes. This is good, Skunk. Oh, yeah, Wholesale agent, but this is all regulated by the government. Yes, they're appointed by the government. They're paying market fees can vote How is showing me around his local wholesale market, one of thousands run by the government where Indian farmers sell their crops Auction. Takes bids for eggplants trucks disgorge bales of collie flower wave through waist high piles of green beans. These markets were set up in the 19 sixties in India's Green revolution. When the government started subsidizing pesticides and irrigation. It helped boost yields and made India self sufficient in food. But it did not lift many farmers themselves out of poverty. My father has not much educated Lord Howe comes from a long line of grain farmers. The average Indian farm is about 2.5 acres. These are not big commercial farms like in the American West, and with climate change, mechanization and rampant development, not to mention the pandemic. Indian farmers are struggling load houses at our place. Water is not Report supplies water, Not there that much water as much as when you go. So exactly exactly exactly lot of problem is that the production cost off. Traditional farming is going higher day by day, so the help the Indian government passed three new laws last year they aimed to deregulate the way produces bought and sold. Wholesalers and grocery chains no longer have to buy it. These government run markets they could do deals directly with farms. Many farmers are not happy, though, because you know Agriculture prices are subject to a lot of volatility. Economists seem a bad lawyer says farmers got used to selling of these government run markets, which guarantee them a minimum price. So it's a safety net for the farmers. When prices go down, the government says it will still set prices for certain crops, and it's not closing these markets just adding more options. That son Jake Ohad is still worried. Ginger Allah Miggy. Eventually he's a middle man who buys from farmers here. Don't he says he's worried big corporations will circumvent these markets and obliterate small traders like him. As we chat. Another man interrupts. We're proud of you will be the King of World Niners, and this is basically what's happened with the farm laws. It's all devolved into political arguments. Agriculture reform has long been the third rail of Indian politics. Successive governments avoided it. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is trying to do it now on a national scale. The rules have always varied by state and by crop economist giant ego says mode. I made a mistake by not explaining this well. The amazing thing is that the more the government passed these laws in the middle of a pandemic. They just quickly passed it without any discussion. You could have gone to people talked about it Godfrey back because these are long term proposals proposals now laws that affect the approximately 800 million Indians who depend on farming for a living. There's been a lot of confusion. Farmers here in Western India don't have the same concerns as in the north of the country that they moved more delicious than me getting shit carry those air. The rich farmers from the north you see protest, Ng says a tomato farmer here named um, but a sun up. He's got nine family members to feed. He can't afford to take a day off to protest. The protests have been dominated by farmers from northern India, the country's bread basket. They grow mostly grain and rely on government markets. More than a tomato farmer like sun up who can sell out of the back of his truck. Northern farmers see these laws is the first step toward dismantling all the aid they've gotten since the Green Revolution. Including price guarantees for wheat, rice and 20 other crops. I'm your bony I mean, bony, but not for my tomatoes. Sun Up, says he's never been eligible for the price guarantees that wheat growers get a majority of India's farmers or not. Meanwhile, farmers in several states are already circumventing these government wholesale markets and have been for years well, These conveyor belts are moving quickly. This produce packing collective started more than a decade ago, when eight farmers banded together. Now it has a sprawling campus. It's co owned by more than 10,000 farmers. This is the banana, I think Chambers Banana ripening chamber. This collective bypasses government wholesalers and sells directly to stores. Villas. Shin Dae is the founder market is ready to pay me back. Better place then I should capture that market is Roper. Depending on government. He says he got fed up waiting decades for government reforms, so he took matters into his own hands and started this collective. For others, the pandemic has forced them to consider new ways of selling their produce. So these air your grapes Here's yes. If grandfather and great farmer Abby shake shall kisses. His harvest came right when government run wholesale markets closed last year because of Cove, it actually opportunity, so he and his friends all farmers in their twenties who'd gone to college, started selling on Twitter and got more for their produce. Bobby Shake, says his heart is with his fellow farmers who've been protesting even if they don't share all the same concerns. His head, he says, is on how to solve some of the inefficiencies he sees in the way his forefathers have long done business and he doesn't really trust the government to do it. When I'm just out to get the amulet and no I did buy it guys off the coast of Calabrese. I think our generation is going to have to try to figure this out, he says. Lauren Frayer NPR news in Nash IQ. Maharashtra, India