From the trade union strike to the farmers strike: the protests going on in India

Debojit Banerjee outlines the conditions underlying the massive movements of workers and farmers resisting the right-wing Modi government in India today with the biggest strike action ever seen.

Debojit Banerjee, is a West Bengal State executive member of the All India Students’ Federation

Being a citizen of India, I am inclined to compare our economy with a coin which has 102 billionaires as it’s “Heads” who are getting busy everyday in living their sumptuous lives and 0.9 billion people as it’s “Tails” who chiefly struggle to fulfill their daily necessary requirements. Sadly the story of that “Tails”, never got emphasized in Modi’s speeches in USA, UK or even in India.

On November 26th, the world saw the largest trade union strike called by leftist trade unions in India. As per the reporting of the national and international mainstream media “200 millions peoples had participated in this general strike”. Perhaps the largest strike the world has seen in recent times. And now, the whole country is witnessing world’s largest farmer’s protest but the question is – what are the reasons behind these large scaled protests?

It’s not that the conditions of farmers in this country have deteriorated only today. The news of farmers committing suicide are quite common in India since 1990 and it has increased by 40% under the Modi regime. More than 70,000 farmers have committed suicide in last 7 years and millions are in distress due to having debt from private loan providers and the unacceptable truth is that once union agricultural minister of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led government, Mr Radha Mohon Singh, had indicated ‘sexual dissatisfaction’ as a reason of farmer suicides.

On the other hand statistical reports show that maximum farmers in India are living below poverty line.  As the final nail on the coffin, few agricultural bills were passed in parliament in September 2020 which will eventually turn the government regulated agricultural market into a corporate dominated open market. Government publicized this bill by the tagline “One Nation, One market” but there was no mention of the Minimum Support Price (MSP – A minimum price of the corps which had to be provided to the farmers in Government Regulated Markets) in the bill for these corporate markets.

Despite many protest rallies by the farmers, the government never listened to the farmers. As a result more than 1 million farmers from more than 500 organizations took over the streets of New Delhi. This indefinite strike called by the leftist organizations is a do or die struggle for the farmers.  But there are two more things which are very much required to be discussed here. Only then will we get to know the real scenario for the largest ‘democracy’ on the planet.

1 – the actions taken by the government to stop the farmers’ march

Modi’s government used tear gas and water cannons to stop the farmers who feed the whole country. The national highway was ripped apart intentionally to prevent the farmers march. Section 144 (the law which authorises the Executive Magistrate of any state or territory to issue an order to prohibit the assembly of four or more people in an area. According to the law, every member of such ‘unlawful assembly‘ can be booked for engaging in rioting) was imposed in the state of Haryana.

Bus services were also cancelled. More than one thousand farmers have been arrested and the most shameful thing is, the Delhi police froce (under central government direction) had written an appeal to Delhi State Government to convert 9 stadiums into temporary jails where farmers could be detained, though the appeal was never accepted.

The protestor who successfully closed the nozzle of water cannon which was being used to hit the farmers has now been charged with a case of “attempt to murder” but still the Modi government could not stop the protest.

2 – the role of Indian media

The majority of the main stream media owners of the country are very close to BJP. As a result, out of 10 mainstream news channels, 7 tried to portray this farmer march as a separatist movement and a Naxalite movement. No doubt that the majority of the mainstream media are trying to manipulate peoples’ minds and convert the irresistible farmers protest to a political game.

But the fourth pillar of Indian democracy never highlighted this unity of working class. They will never tell us the story that the farmers who joined the meeting with government to settle the issue did not take the lunch provided by the government just because their friends are on the street. The media is promoting the wage given by Modi’s BJP government to the farmers but never highlighted the exact amount which is just 6,000 Indian Rupees per year which is equivalent to 80 US Dollars per year.

By observing this kind of incident, we the left can easily understand that the state is now simply following the crony capitalist model where people love the military and the military is used to protect the government. The government will sell everything to corporations and the corporations fund the media but one thing is also for sure. The way farmers and workers have taken to the highway of the country, it doesn’t matter how much Modi and his corporate friends pretend to run the country, the real driving force can stop the country at anytime.

It is already proven that the working class doesn’t have any interest in religious politics, they simply want to live with bread and butter. So it is our duty to unite this working class to break this crony capitalist cycle with a goal of socialism. The good news is, the myth of becoming a super power is now being exposed to the outside world.

We recently saw a tweet from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who himself is a pro-capitalist representative has shown his consciousness on recent incidents happening in India. The people of India should also accept the fact that India is neither a rich country nor a developed one but a very poor country which ranks 112 in global hunger index.

Debojit Banerjee

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