By Sarvjeet Kaur
In this era of globalization, revolutions or large social movements are inevitable events to change the world for its betterment. There have been many social movements that have changed society and its perspective to look at things. We know every country is confronting or facing different social issues. Recently, Black Lives Matters and other social movements were the headlines of some news channels. However, the farmer’s protest in India has gained momentum from different countries and has been one of the global issues. I termed farmer’s protest as a global issue because most of the countries are voicing solidarity with protestors. Therefore, this article will first discuss the new three farm bills.
Second, it will illustrate the government’s and farmers’ perspectives about the newly passed law that will take us to the cause of farmer’s protest and how it initiated. Third, it will demonstrate the role played by social services worker agencies, including governmental and non-governmental organizations at the national and international level to help protestors in this critical situation.
The farmer protest is one of the peaceful protests that has been continued at the present moment too. The protest was initiated after the introduction of three farm bills that were passed by the Indian government on “27 September 2020”(The Economic Times, 2021). The three new bills are“Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance 2020, Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm services Ordinance 2020, and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance 2020” (PRS Legislative Research, 2021). The first Ordinance provides the freedom to farmers for trading their produce to different buyers that could be within the state or from the neighbouring states (PRS Legislative Research, 2021). It ensures barrier-free trade with promotion and a smooth trading process for farmers(Ministry of Law and Justice, 2020).
It also introduces “dispute settling mechanism” and a “legal agreement” that has to be made between the farmer and buyer before selling the crop(Ministry of Law and Justice, 2020). The third Ordinance involves the amendments that have been done in the list of essential commodities by the government by removing certain commodities as essential (PRS Legislative Research, 2021). The Ordinance states that government will only add the removed commodities back to the list when there will be a steep rise in price or during “wartime, famine, or natural calamities”(Ministry of Law and Justice, 2020). In other words, the government’s aim to introduce these bills was to expand the possibilities for the farmers to enter long-term trade agreements, to increase buyer’s availability and to “permit buyers to purchase farm produce in bulk” (PRS Legislative Research, 2021). Therefore, the government introduced the three new bills to help farmers to raise their livelihood by empowering them and by giving them protection by signing a legal agreement with the buyer before they trade.
However, farmers’ perspective is different to look at the situation because they believe that power rules and implementation of bills will exploit them by restricting them with contract farming and other demands. Protestors think that by the implementation of new farm bills, the government is introducing “contract farming” and dismantling the existing “ APMC (Agriculture Produce Marketing Committee) or Mandi system”(Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers Welfare, 2020). But there is again a dilemma that comes in. Some farmers recognized the Mandi system as their one of the problem as it involves significant deduction of taxes and commission which, is primarily done by the Commission Agents as a result farmer’s income is affected(Nair & Jayanth, 2020). On the other hand, some farmers said that there was no need for implementing or introducing these new farm bills; they were satisfied with the Mandi System because they built trustworthy relations with their Commission Agents (Nair & Jayanth, 2020). Thus, dismantling of the Mandi system, MSP, and introduction of contract farming are some major causes behind the protest along with other reasons on different grounds. Therefore, farmers are raising their voices to protect their present and future generations from the trap of these new bills, which might have a devastating impact on their lives.
There is no doubt that India’s agriculture system needs to be improved to make farmers’ life easier and affordable so as to reduce suicide and death rates, but this approach of new farm bills has divided India into two opposing groups: the government and the protestors. The government ask for 18 months of implementation of the bills followed by the amendments if the bills didn’t meet the expectation whereas, farmers demand the repeal of all the three farm bills (The Times of India, 2021). It is because farmers are afraid that once farms bills will be implemented it will increase their risk of getting exploit by the big corporate as there is no safeguard protection (Dhaliwal, 2020). Therefore, the protest is continued by the farmers not just in Punjab but around the world with an aim to have a repeal for three new farm bills (Mann, 2021).
The Farmers’ protest overtime has gained global support from the diverse population and, the reason for being that is not limited to farmer or agriculture. But the values of humanity, unity, brotherhood, and solidarity have emerged as people lost their lives while protesting for their rights that have a huge impact on the humankind. In other words, people are supporting farmers and their protest because farmers serve the nation and, as being a citizen of a democratic country, they have the right to raise their voices. However, their voices of repeal are not being heard by the government that has resulted in making the farmers’ protest one of the big protests in the world and, protestors marked their “100th day on March 06, 2021” by blocking the roads in New Delhi to increase the pressure on “Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government” to deregulate the new farm bills (Fadnavis & Siddiqui, 2021). Therefore, the protest is going on and farmers have mentioned that protest will be continued until the government deregulates the new agricultural bills (Fadnavis & Siddiqui, 2021).
At this point, I believe we should know or acknowledge that who are the people that have made the protest site as a temporary but a global village for the protestors to survive in the extreme weather conditions.
In other words, we should recognize the efforts or support provided by the social services organization at different levels that have reached out to the protestors to help them. I termed the protest site as a global village because people from diverse cultural and traditional backgrounds are living in a same place, helping each other in different forms, and protesting with farmers without holding any stereotypes. The protest site has an open community kitchen that is led voluntarily by some villages and locals as serving free food to everybody is a part of Sikh tradition (Pasricha, 2020). “Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Committee, Baba Kashmir Singh ji Bhuriwale, Dera Baba Jagtar Singh, Jamindara Student Organization, Gurudwara Head Darbar Kot Puran”are some local and state-level committees or organizations that are playing great role in helping protestors by serving them free food also known as “langar”(Deccan Herald, 2020). In addition to this, a team of “25 Muslims” also known as “Muslim Federation of Punjab” is also serving free food to all the farmers which is a great example of humanity that prioritizes the humankind before political or religious segregation (India Today, 2020). Along with community kitchen, there are various other facilities provided by the locals, state- level and international organizations to protestors over time.
The concept of “Sewa” which means services has significantly emerged and is seen in the protest (Sinha, 2020). The people have made collaborative effort to offer sewa (services) to protestors. Some villages has provided washing machines, solar plates as source of electricity, established temple while Gurdwara in Haryana sent Rotimaker to the protest site for the protestors convenience (Sinha, 2020). In addition to this, protest site has over 10 medical camps that include dental check-ups and a small library is also introduced for the protestors to learn, read, and grow (Sinha, 2020). Apart from the food services, there are organizations like Khalsa Aid an international organization, who have installed massage chairs for the elderly people in the protest; served free food, essential commodities (shelters, blankets, mattresses, geysers) and also constructed washrooms(Times Now News, 2020). Khalsa Aid organization has always helped people for the sake of humanity and to spread love and peace in this diverse world through their selfless and worthful or might be constructive life changing acts for some people (Khalsa Aid International, 2020). Moreover, people have also established a small school for the underprivileged children which is also known as “SanjhiSathh” (Kuchay, 2021). “SanjhiSathh” is a temporary makeshift school which started with “8 students and now number has grown to 167” and teachers are volunteering to teach students so as to be part of this protest (Kuchay, 2021).
Therefore, social services organizations are playing a vital role in this long-going protest to support the farmers and stand in solidarity with the farmers and protestors until or unless their voices are heard by the government.
Moreover, looking from social services perspective we should also recognize some short-term and long-term needs of the protestors that should be met, respectively. In other words, we should be mindful of the immediate and long-term needs that protestors may need while protesting or after the protest. I think the immediate needs or short-term needs of protestors are being met. It is because immediate needs like food, shelter, and all other essential commodities are already being provided to the protestors by the social services organizations(Times Now News, 2020). However, I think for long-term goals first, we should search for the people or organizations that will help protestors by advocating for them to ensure justice.
I mentioned about the advocacy and justice because during the protest some individuals were imprisoned while other experienced violation of their rights (Gaur, 2021). Second, organizations and volunteers who are helping by educating children in Sanjhi Satth should contact to the schools or other agencies to continue children’s education when the protest will be over (Kuchay, 2021). Third, I believe we should look for the ways like art therapy for the traumatized people which might help them to overcome their grief or trauma,rooted in the protest(Canadian Art Therapy Association, 2020). Therefore, I believe even if services and basic needs or short-term needs of protestors are being met still, we should be mindful about the long-term goals or needs like we have to locate social services workers that would help protestors by advocating on behalf of them to eradicate the allegations that have been imposed on protestors for revealing the truth (Gaur, 2021).
In conclusion, the protest was initiated in the last winters by the farmers when the government introduced three new farm bills in India. The farmers are protesting to repeal the new farm bills because they are afraid that these new bills will have a devastating effect on their lives.
However, the government justifies that these new farm bills will boost farmers’ income and will empower farmers which will help farmers to live their life happily. But, it is not only about the different views of farmers or government, the protestors have gone through so much that I believe as a part of a democratic country their voices need to be heard because they have the right to express their views or share their views freely. Besides this, India is a traditional country where people prioritize humanity first over all other factors. Thus, for the sake of humanity if non-residents of India could help and support the protest then the government should also listen to farmer’s voices and have a resolving dialogue with them. I suggest and request the government to at least have talked with protestors and come up with a resolution or solution to this global protest. Even, I suggest and encourage the social services workers and agencies out there to help the protestors for meeting their short and long-term needs as much as possible to ensure the protestor’s welfare. At last, I along with other protestors thank you to the organizations like Khalsa Aid and volunteers like doctors, teachers, and other individuals, who have provided numerous kinds of social services in different forms to protestors so as to make their lives convenient while protesting for their livelihoods.
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