Why tens of thousands of farmers are blocking roads into India’s capital city

“More than 200,000 Indian farmers and their supporters have occupied the streets of New Delhi for days in protest against three new agriculture reform laws, blocking major highways into the capital city and vowing to remain camped there until the laws are repealed.

The legislation, enacted by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in late September, aims to deregulate India’s agricultural industry in a move the government says will both provide farmers with more autonomy over choosing prices and make the agricultural sector more efficient.

Under the new policies, farmers will now sell goods and make contracts with independent buyers outside of government-sanctioned marketplaces, which have long served as the primary locations for farmers to do business. Modi and members of his party believe these reforms will help India modernize and improve its farming industry, which will mean greater freedom and prosperity for farmers.

But the protesting farmers aren’t convinced.”

“Agriculture plays a crucial role in the Indian economy, as nearly 60 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people depend on farming for their livelihoods. But farming is also incredibly unproductive, as the sector accounts for only about 15 percent of India’s GDP.

By allowing farmers to sell to whomever they want, the government hopes to attract private business to agriculture, which will benefit some farmers.”

“The problem, Dhume explained, is that there are simply too many farmers in India. He and others have argued thatthe country should make a similar transition away from farming to manufacturing, like China did.

But so far, India has not been able to generate the kind of manufacturing growth needed to support millions of farmers in their transition to new work. Manufacturing accounted for only about 17 percent of India’s GDP in 2020.

As Dhume said, “If the economy were creating jobs, then there wouldn’t be as much anxiety. In India, because job creation has been so weak, the thought of losing the guarantee is unsettling for farmers.””


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