South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, stands in solidarity with the farmers’ movement and urges the Government of India to immediately repeal the three recently enacted agricultural laws which threaten their livelihood. The unprecedented unity of the farmers and the determination of the struggle for their immediate and long term survival has awakened consciousness among the people across the region.

Thousands of farmers have been protesting for more than 5 months insisting that the new laws will leave them at the mercy of large and Multi- National Corporations (MNCs). The three bills – the Farmers’ (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act and the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act were passed by the Parliament on 27 September 2020, despite continuous objections from the farmers against them. SAHR learns that the ruling party used its parliamentary majority to pass these bills without sufficient Parliamentary discussion or consultation with key stakeholders such as the farmer unions.

SAHR strongly believes that it is essential that the Indian government should repeal these laws which give more control on the farm and labour market to the large corporations. This will directly affect the employment and livelihood opportunities of the farmer communities as well as their access to resources.  Further, SAHR is concerned that this will lead to large companies to grow to be monopolies that exploit farmers as well as the consumers by stockpiling and hoarding. During the Covid-19 pandemic, a large number of internal migrants were forced to go back to their homes and take up tending their land for their survival which remained their only source of income.

The newly enacted laws will override safety measures that protect small and marginal farmers to bring in domestic and foreign private investment in to India’s farm sector. These laws will also have far-reaching implications on commodity prices, financial structure, wages, public health and environment.  Mainly, the farmer population of which more than 85% own smaller than three acres of farmland engaged in subsistence farming, as well as farm labourers, are apprehensive of this new policy. They have learnt from past experience with marketing reforms made in individual states that farmers only gain from well-considered reforms existing infrastructure and not complete deregulation that the new laws propose.  

Despite the 5 rounds of inconclusive discussions the Centre had with the farmers, SAHR believes that the Supreme Court’s directive on 17 December 2020 to the government to refrain from any executive action on the three farm bills passed and to form a committee to resolve the issue is crucial. It must be heeded by the government in order to arrive at a fair and accessible judicial remedy.

Therefore, SAHR calls upon the Government of India to immediately repeal the agricultural laws, secure food sovereignty and food security for the people of India and the livelihood of farmers by protecting their interests equal to that of MNCs and large corporations.

On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR),

Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy
Chairperson 

Dr. Roshmi Goswam
Co-Chairperson

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