Farmers shout slogans before burning effigies of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar in Amritsar on Sept. 20 following the passing of agriculture bills in parliament. (Photo: AFP)
Indian farmers are bracing for another major showdown with the federal government after accusing its new farm laws of ignoring their interests and promoting multinational firms.A church-backed body has joined farmers' unions in asking the government to withdraw two laws that parliament passed on Sept. 20.The government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said the Farmers' Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Bill, 2020, and the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement of Price Assurance and Farm Services Bill, 2020, are measures to reform the farm sector. But "the new laws are a real threat to the farm sector and the farmers," said Father Joseph Ottaplackal, chairman of the Indian Farmers Movement (INFAM), a church-backed body based in southern India's Kerala state.The new laws will deprive the farmers of the minimum support price that the government assures them for their produce, he told UCA News.The laws permit the winding up of existing government-assisted marketing systems, contract farming and multinational investments in the farming sector.More than 70 percent of India's 1.3 billion people directly or indirectly depend on farming for their sustenance. But some 80 percent of them — over 700 million — are marginal farmers with less than two hectares of land."These marginal small-time farmers will not be able to bargain with corporate firms. Big companies will take advantage and determine the price of produce, and farmers will not be able to bargain with them," Father Ottaplackal said.The reforms threaten the very existence of marginal farmers as big companies will not be interested in entering into any contract farming with them, he added.INFAM was formed in 2000 to address farmers' issues and to encourage farmers to adopt new methods to make agriculture a profitable occupation.