Feb 1, 2021
Hundreds of people participated in a car rally through downtown Detroit, Sunday, January 24. The caravan first overfilled two parking lots at Comerica Park, then shut down traffic as it proceeded down Woodward and Jefferson Avenues, and ended on Belle Isle. Similar rallies previously took place in the nearby suburbs of Canton and Troy.
The protesters expressed solidarity with farmers in India who have been protesting against recent laws passed by India’s government.
In India, tens of thousands of people, mainly from states just outside New Delhi, India’s capital, took to the roads into the capital in protest. The government met them with batons, tear gas, concrete barricades barring their entry into New Delhi, and water cannons, right in the middle of an unusually cold winter there. Despite the cold, protesters have camped out, choking the roads into New Delhi. Many belong to one of dozens of farmers’ unions negotiating over the new laws with the government. The protests near New Delhi have inspired others in other parts of the country.
India, an underdeveloped country, has been under pressure in the World Trade Organization by more powerful countries like those of the European Union, the U.S., Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, to reduce supports it provides to its small farmers.
Protesters say India’s right-wing Prime Minister Nahendra Modi yielded to these pressures in pushing through three recent laws, completely bypassing the country’s parliament to prevent any debate.
Up until now, Indian farmers had to sell their products through government-regulated wholesale markets called “mandis.” The first two of the new laws make it legal for farmers to deal directly with corporations and private buyers and supposedly push farmers, corporations and private buyers to negotiate prices. Small farmers worry that corporate giants will have more bargaining power over them in these “negotiations.” They are also concerned the laws will lead to an end to government minimum price supports, subsidies that have been in place for decades.
The third law removes certain farm products like “cereals, pulses, oilseeds, edible oils, onions and potatoes” from the list of what the government stockpiles as essential commodities.
The government claims the goal is to encourage investment in cold storage to allow stockpiling by farmers, but experts agree that small farmers would not be able to afford such investments to compete with corporate farms and that this would reduce market prices small farmers would receive.