- The protests are not getting as much coverage as they deserve
The media in Pakistan is not giving sufficient coverage to what is now a huge event, the unprecedented protests of the Indian farmers against the three new laws which blatantly favour the interests of the big corporations in agriculture.
Had it been happening in Pakistan, the Indian media would have come out very differently; probably they all work in unison when it comes to working against Pakistan. There can be quoted many instances, which lead us to believe that either our journalism is poised to local politics or deliberately ignores the events occurring on the wider scale. One had observed that when the Indian media team, the number was in hundreds, came to Pakistan, during the former Prime Minister Vajpayee’s visit and his talks with Pakistan’s President, Pervez Musharraf, the Indian media spoke in chorus as if they had been well briefed by their ‘government’. On the contrary, our media persons had answers to Indian media interviewers that were heterogeneous and not in complete harmony with the Pakistan’s national interest.
If one may invite the readers to browse on internet about the plight of protesting farmers of India, you will hardly see anything informative on Google, but the reports of Indian media, largely print and not even electronic or social media. Is it because of the Indian control over the Google and Microsoft or is it because we in Pakistan are not giving much importance to an event worthy of reporting– what to talk of exploiting? The reporting available does not come from any Pakistani outlets, but foreign wire news services. International media, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, BBC, CNN and others are seen giving much of the due coverage.
The system has led to farmers sometimes growing crops unsuited to the local climate, such as thirsty rice in Punjab, and can be fertile ground for corruption. “Land, cattle and farmers will be enslaved by the rich. Modi wants to finish us”, he added. As an escape route, his government is dubbing the Sikhs “hooligans, anti-nationals or separatists”
Likewise, the international media in the USA, the UK, the European Union, Canada and Australia is giving wide coverage to the Indian peasantry, which has largely won the support of people abroad and from across India. The issue warrants reporting because the protests have entered the third week; the farmers have gathered in the outskirts of Delhi.
Looking at the facts, it seems amazing that the farmers’ plight seems not only genuine but also politically motivated. Being a huge country, India’s farming sector is vast too, but troubled too. It provides a livelihood to nearly 70 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion people and accounts for around 15 percent of the $2.7 trillion economy.
The “Green Revolution” of the 1970s turned India from a country facing regular food shortages into one with a surplus and a major exporter. But for the past few decades, farm incomes have remained largely stagnant and the sector is in sore need of investment and modernization. Currently, more than 85 percent of Indian farmers have less than two hectares (five acres) of land. Fewer than one in a hundred farmers owns over 10 hectares, according to a 2015-2016 Indian Agriculture Ministry’s survey.
India hands out an estimated $32 billion in subsidies to farmers annually, according to the Indian Finance Ministry. Water shortages, floods and increasingly erratic weather caused by climate change, as well as debt, have taken a heavy toll on farmers, especially in Indian Punjab. According to a Punjab government report in 2017, it will use up all its groundwater resources by 2039. More than 300,000 farmers have killed themselves since the 1990s. Nearly 10,300 did so in 2019, according to the latest official figures. Farmers and their workers are also abandoning agriculture in droves— 2000 every day according to the last census in 2011.
Markets were set up in the 1950s to stop the exploitation of farmers and pay a minimum support price (MSP) for certain produce but now the Indian government under extremist Narendra Modi has left the poor farmers at the mercy of seasoned business houses such as the Ambanis, the Tatas, the Birlas and the Rahejas as well as the RPG Group and the Future Group. Reportedly, 28 farmers have died while protesting for their rights, but the Indian media and government are busy in picturing them as terrorists, anti-nationalists, Naxalites, leftists and proxies of Khalistan. The BJP government doesn’t even have the guts to make new farm bills according to the Constitution.
They say that the India government is a blot on democracy! That’s why, the saner elements across India including the retired bureaucrats, teachers, educationists, youths, scientists and workers in both organized and unorganized sectors, and even sportspersons and security forces are learning the farmers’ issues and have expressed solidarity with them. This protest has united India against the Nazi BJP government.
The BJP government has used brutal might of the state apparatus; in Haryana to prevent larger mobilization of peasants from reaching Delhi; but even that is proving to be insufficient. Indeed, there is large mobilization of peasants from across India – Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and parts of Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. Sikhs, mostly crowds of 400 to 600 people, in nearly 50 different cities of the USA, the UK, Canada and Australia, are protesting with their families. Whereas the Indian government calls it an internal affair.
Worried by the use of disproportionate force against many elderly protesters, the farmers have reached out to the UN to ask New Delhi to protect the farmers’ right to peaceful protest and exert pressure on them to accept their genuine demands. As the army of resolute farmers keeps up its blockade of New Delhi, Modi is facing the trickiest challenge to his authority and so-called reforms agenda.
Modi made big promises to farmers, vowing to double their incomes by 2022. In September, Indian Parliament passed three laws that enabled the farmers to sell to any buyer they chose, rather than to commission agents at state-controlled markets. These markets were set up in the 1950s to stop the exploitation of farmers. “The laws will harm the farmers and in turn destroy our livelihood”, said Sukhwinder Singh, a farmer who cycled 400km to the protests. The system has led to farmers sometimes growing crops unsuited to the local climate, such as thirsty rice in Punjab, and can be fertile ground for corruption. “Land, cattle and farmers will be enslaved by the rich. Modi wants to finish us”, he added. As an escape route, his government is dubbing the Sikhs “hooligans, anti-nationals or separatists”.