This news article describes the impact of corrupt legislation on ordinary working people. The organised protests and solidarity of the public with farmers is an excellent example of how coordinated resistance can enable change.
Editor’s note: DGR strongly opposes the three new farm laws that have inspired the farmer’s protests in India. However, we do not necessarily agree with all of the demands of the protestors.
By Salonika/DGR Asia-Pacific
On 12th January, 2021, the Supreme Court of India suspended the ‘Three Contentious Farm Laws, amidst large scale protests from farmers in India. The three farm laws continue to be hailed by the ruling party as a means on giving farmers more autonomy over selling of their crops and will break big monopolies. Yet, it is the farmers who have mobilized and organized the mass-scale protests against the laws.
Resistance against the farm bills has been mainly organized by farmer’s unions, ongoing across different areas of the country, since the bills were first introduced. The protests intensified after the bills were passed by the parliament and signed by the President in late September. At the time of writing this, thousands of farmers are on the streets, demanding central government repeal the three acts. In the past five months, about 70 protestors have lost their lives to heart attacks, cold, accidents and suicides.
What does the laws mean for the farmers?
State governments in three states of India – Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan – have established a marketing board (APMC). Under this system, the first sale of agricultural produce (i.e. from the farmer to the middlemen) could happen only in the mandis (market yards) of APMC. The mandis in turn operate under a Minimum Support Price (MSP) system that ensure certain crops are sold at a minimum price set by the government at the beginning of the season.
By ensuring a minimum price for their produce, The APMC and MSP system act as a safeguard for farmers, against unexpected price drops, as well as exploitation by large retailers or local moneylenders.
Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, one of the new laws, remove the APMC system, and allow for sale of agricultural produce to private buyers without any government oversight. While the ruling party claims that this would liberate the farmers to sell their produce to the highest bidder, the farmers fear otherwise.
The direct dealings of farmers with large retailers will put the farmers in a vulnerable position No laws in India or any of the states consider the MSP system to be legally enforceable. The new laws also do not mention MSP in regards to direct dealings with retailers, and will likely dismantle the MSP system. Although the members of ruling party have verbally assured that the system will be intact, the farmers have demands a more formalized pledge to the continuity of MSP.
What if farmers are exploited?
On top of that, certain sections of the laws strip citizens’ right to legal recourse. One law grants complete immunity for any act performed in the process of implementation of the law as long as the act was performed in “good faith.” Another strips civil courts of jurisdiction over proceedings related to the laws. The judicial power is transferred to new institutions created by the laws, which will remain under the executive control.
In effect, anyone who can claim to be acting in “good faith” in their implementation of the rules could easily acquire legal immunity, with little to no consequences for their actions. A study of the impacts of deregulation policies across the world clearly demonstrate that it is the corporations who will enjoy this impunity, while the so-called beneficiaries of the policies (in this case, the farmers) will be further repressed under corporate control. It is clear for everyone to see that this ‘gift of legislation’ offers working people zero protection and could cause significant harm.
Responses to the protests
The protests have received overwhelming support from the public, celebrities, and even opposition parties. Whilst the motives behind the latter’s support are, of course, contentious, it is at this time welcome given what is at stake. Incredibly, approximately 250 million people participated in a nationwide general strike organized by farmer unions on November 26, 2020.
Unsurprisingly, from the governmental side, the peaceful protests have been met with water cannons, batons, tear gas, barricades and sand barriers to stop the protestors from crossing state borders. A youth who turned off a police water cannon, being used against the protestors, was later charged with attempted murder.
The members of the ruling party have used a number of tactics to discredit the organizers. Baseless accusations that the movement is led by “privileged” farmers, or secessionists, or even terrorists have been made and reported by the mainstream media.
Need for radical changes
The new laws will render the farmers vulnerable to big businesses. However, these are not the only problems that farmers in India have faced. It is estimated that ten farmers kill themselves everyday.
Majority of the problems that the farmers face can be traced back to the 1960s when India became an experimental ground for the Green Revolution, which introduced hybrid seeds, monoculture, chemical fertilizers and pesticides in India. The results of the experiments are horrifying.
In Punjab (ground zero of the Green Revolution in India), pesticide residues were found in a quarter of breast milk samples in 2014. “Cancer trains” carry pesticide related cancer victims from Punjab to Rajasthan. Farmers’ suicides (considered a national catastrophe) is a result of the increasing spiral of debt that the farmers cannot escape from. Testimonies of a few of the protesting farmers shows that a majority of their expenses is spent on pesticides and fertilizers.
The movement against the new farm laws are a significant blow to the exploitative and oppressive system. The farmers can build on this movement to reverse the devastating effects of the Green Revolution.
The food sector of India (as it is now) serves no one in the longer term. The food producers are trapped in inescapable spirals of debt. The consumers are ingesting toxins in their bodies. The landbase upon which we depend is getting poisoned by chemical toxins. Aquifers have started drying out. The diversity of crops and plants in India have been lost
This should be replaced by a system that serves both the ecology and the local communities should be established, through reindigenization of agriculture practices` and localization of food production.
For more information on the protests, check out the official website of Ail India Kisan Sabha, and this open letter of solidarity` for the farmers.
Salonika is an organizer at DGR Asia Pacific and is based in Nepal. She believes that the needs of the natural world should trump the needs of the industrial civilization.
Featured image: Ted Eytan
In this short essay Salonika relates what resistance personally means to her.
The system is fucked-up. If you are reading this, you probably know this already. You’re here because you know how fucked-up the system is. You know that it is based on the oppression of humans, nonhumans and the entire planet. You know that we need to fight this system, that we need to resist it with all we have. You may already be doing that anyway. I’m going to share some of the ways that I have resisted.
Resistance requires courage.
Resistance means standing up for what is right. It requires the willingness to go against an enemy so powerful that defeat seems inevitable. Sometimes, it may even require standing up to your loved ones. The majority of human beings, including our loved ones and even ourselves, are indoctrinated into this human supremacist, male supremacist, white supremacist culture that hates life. Anyone who dares to go against this culture is likely to be attacked on many levels, emotionally, socially, financially, or even physically. I’m sure many of us have faced this. I’ve faced such attacks for refusing to go along with mindless consumerism, for providing a radical view among non-political groups, and for refusing to conform to the dominant narrative. I have been coaxed, harassed, or threatened into submission. Regrettably, a few of these attacks have been successful. They serve to remind us how powerful the dominant system is, and how much of courage it requires to stand up against it.
Resistance means being prepared.
The system does not serve anyone. It is inherently flawed. Usually, these flaws are covered up by conveniences such as 24-hour electricity, hot water flowing out of a faucet, or the ability to instantly connect with anyone. The genocide and slavery that continues to go into making all this possible is well hidden. However, there are times when the injustices of the system become apparent, times when inherent flaws cannot be hidden anymore. The failure of the global supply chain during the initial parts of the lockdown is one example.
Everyday examples include extreme cases of violence against a person of an oppressed group, especially when the violence cannot be deemed to serve anyone. These incidences open up discussion about systemic flaws, and may lead to structural changes, for better or worse. Resistance means being prepared to notice and utilise such situations, to highlight the flaws within the system, and to direct the momentum for positive changes.
Resistance should also be strategic.
It means considering the best and the most effective means to achieve one’s goals. We are up against a system that has far more resources and more power at its disposal. We cannot be prodigal on our use of time and energy. Sometimes, this means backing off from a fight. It is not possible to win every argument, every legal case, every fight against the system. Effective resistance requires us to identify the fights that are worth spending our limited time and energy on.
Resistance comes in different forms.
Regardless of the nuances in our political ideologies, or the differences in our life situations, there are many ways to resist the system. For me, fighting for my right to planned parenthood is a form of resistance. For a woman who has submitted to patriarchy all her life, fighting against her family’s pressures to abort her daughter is resistance. Every form of resistance against this culture should be welcomed.
I believe Derrick Jensen could not be any clearer when he says:
“The good thing about everything being so fucked up is that no matter where you look there is great work to be done.”
Salonika is an organizer at DGR Asia Pacific and is based in Nepal. She believes that the needs of the natural world should trump the needs of the industrial civilization.
The Green Revolution is a misnomer: it sounds like a radical environmental movement when it’s the exact opposite of that. It is a movement led by corporations (including the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation) to further reinforce the class-based heierarchy, while spreading an ecocidal practice across the world.
The Green Revolution has promoted the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides; hybridized seeds and high yielding crop varieties; expansion of irrigation infrastructure, and modernization of management techniques. It started in late 1950s and has been credited as the movement that saved the world from mass starvation. (The mass starvation seemed imminent due to the human population overshoot. The population was 3 billion at the time and since then has increased by more than 5 billion – an almost threefold increase!) Norman Borlaug, the father of Green Revolution, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for saving a billion people from starvation.
Currently a second wave of Green Revolution is on the way. Influential people like Bill Gates are pushing the use of Genetically Modified Crops (GMOs) in countries of Africa as a new solution to the upcoming starvation.
This is the dominant narrative regarding the Green Revolution. There are some important points missing from this perfect little story.
Lets delve into the history of the agricorporations first.
The agricultural corporations have an intertwined history history with the wars. During World War II, the agricultural corporations (then chemical corporations) produced explosives and poisons. Monsanto operation the Dayton Project and the Mound Laboratories, and was involved in the development of the first nuclear weapons. During the Vietnam War, Monsanto also poisoned Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos with Agent Orange. The effects on human health and ecology can be felt to this day.
The war legacy of these corporations extends beyond this. According to the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunals, Bayer had purchased 150 healthy women from the Auswitch concentration camp for experiments with sleep-inducing drugs. All of these women died during the experiments.
It is hard to believe that the companies that had no qualms in actively profiteering from wars, conducting war crimes, or purchasing humans, would simultaneously be sensitive to the sufferings of humanity. These corporations have proven time and again that they are willing to poison and exploit the oppressed (the poor, the women, those from the Global South) in pursuit of profit. It is ironical that proponents of GMOs use images of starving children in Africa to build a case in favor of these corporations.
Lets take a case of the state of Punjab in India.
The Green Revolution was introduced in Punjab in 1965. It has been credited for pulling India out of starvation.
In reality, there was no starvation in India in 1965.* A nationwide drought had increased the food prices, creating a need to import food grains. However, the US government and the World Band imposed a condition on the import of food grains and forced synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, and genetically redesigned crops to the farmers of Punjab. These synthetic fertilizers and pesticides were produced using the same chemicals that had been used to produce poisons and explosives during the Second World War. Native crops all over rejected these chemicals. So, the agriculture corporations genetically altered crops so that they would accept (and be dependent on) the synthetic chemicals. These crops later became known as the high yielding varieties and the hybridized seeds.
The Green Revolution has had serious implications in Punjab. The native biodiversity has been destroyed. Once, Punjab used to produce 41 varieties of wheat and 37 varieties of rice. Since the Green Revolution, all of this has been replaced by monocultures of imported crops.
These crops require further use of chemicals. It has toxified the entire ecology. A 2014 study found pesticide residue in 25% of breast milk sample collected from Punjab. In a culture where breast milk stands for purity and love of a mother for her child, a quarter of mothers cannot express this love toward their infants without simultaneously poisoning them.
The number cancer cases are so high in Punjab that a special train carries people suffering from pesticide-related cancer to Rajasthan (another state in India). This train is called the “cancer train.”
Technology transfer or wealth transfer?
The Green Revolution has been credited for technology transfer from the corporations to the farmers. In fact, it has resulted in a massive wealth transfer from farmers to corporations. The farmers in India are dying from an inability to pay the massive loans they have accrued. Since the 1990s, farmers suicide has been a national catastrophe in India. It is estimated that more than 10 farmers commit suicide every day. Ironically, or perhaps symbolically, most kill themselves on their fields by drinking pesticides.
I was once asked why the movement is called the Green Revolution. I said, “Because poison-your-land movement would have sounded less appealing.” It would definitely have been more accurate though!
What will it take to save the living planet? What will turn the tide of climate change and lead to forests rising again? What will defeat or transform the empire that is consuming our living world?
How can we win?
These are the largest and most important questions we face, and they are our mission here at Deep Green Resistance. We dedicate ourselves, relentlessly, to pursuing answers to these questions. And answers we have found—some of them. History and analysis teaches us that transformative, revolutionary political movements rise and fall with cultures of resistance: the people and communities that provide support, material aid, and solidarity to fuel movements.
You are part of this culture of resistance, and we salute you. We thank you for your solidarity, your material aid, and your support. We are humbled by our community: your dedication, your work ethic, your experience, your power, your passion.
Last Sunday, November 22nd, we hosted a 4-hour live streaming event called “Drawing The Line: Stopping the Murder of the Planet,” and we received an outpouring of support. We have raised over $5,000 USD, which for a small grassroots organization like us is a significant portion of our budget. If you didn’t have a chance to donate yet, it’s not too late, and we still very much need support. We hoped to raise $15k, and are still operating in the red. If you can support us, please visit this link to donate, or this link to sign up for monthly contributions. As always, you can contact us to discuss other options.
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Image: Mother bear and cubs in the redwoods, photographed by Derrick Jensen.
REMINDER: This Sunday, November 22nd, join us for a live streaming event—Drawing the Line: Stopping the Murder of the Planet—featuring Derrick Jensen, Lierre Keith, Chris Hedges, and grassroots activists from around the world.
The event will begin at 1pm Pacific (2100 UTC) and will be live streamed at https://givebutter.com/deepgreen.
This Sunday, we ask: where do you draw the line? What is the threshold at which you will fight for the living planet? And how shall we fight?
This event will introduce you to on-the-ground campaigns being waged around the planet, introduce various strategies for effective organizing, rebut false solutions through readings of the forthcoming book Bright Green Lies: How the Environmental Movement Lost Its Way and What We Can Do About It, and discuss philosophy of resistance. There will be opportunities to ask questions and participate in dialogue during the event.
Donate to Support the Movement
The mainstream environmental movement is funded mainly by foundations which don’t want foundational or revolutionary change. Radical organizations like Deep Green Resistance therefore rely on individual donors to support activism around the world, which is why Drawing the Line is also a fundraiser. We’re trying to raise funds to support global community organizing via our chapters, fund mutual aid and direct action campaigns, and make our core outreach and organizational work possible.
Whether or not you are in a financial position to donate, we hope you will join us on November 22nd for this event! There will be a chance to ask questions and participate in dialogue. We hope to see you on Sunday.