Indian farmers' hunger strike: After three weeks of protests over legislation that farmers say will threaten their livelihoods, Indian agriculture workers upped the ante on Monday when they began a day-long hunger strike that they hope will pressure the government to scrap the new laws. Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government says that three reforms passed in September amid the pandemic are meant to liberalize the country's robust agriculture sector (which accounts for 15 percent of India's GDP) by lifting requirements that farmers sell their harvests directly to state warehouses — which guarantee a set minimum price in return. Many agricultural workers, a group that includes about half the country's 1.4 billion people, fear that the laws will benefit big corporations that can increase their market-share by driving down prices and forcing smaller farmers out of business. Protests outside New Delhi continue to intensify, and some demonstrators have blocked highways leading into the capital and set up sprawling tent cities to wait out the political crisis. Modi's government has offered amendments to the legislation, but the demonstrations — and the political stakes — continue to grow.
In recent days, tens of thousands of protesters have descended on the capital of the world's fifth largest economy as part of a political fight that directly affects the livelihoods of more than 600 million people.
This drama is unfolding in India, where a series of reforms to decades-old agriculture laws has touched off a major political crisis. Farmers streaming in from the country's breadbasket regions have blocked roads and set up encampments in New Delhi to demand that the government scrap the new laws. Yesterday, they called a nationwide strike.
In a country where nearly 60 percent of the population of 1.4 billion people depends on farming to earn a living, this is an issue with huge repercussions for the country's popular prime minister, Narendra Modi.