In a time of such political turbulence, it’s easy to feel that the government may not be listening. That its interests may run counter to yours. That they won’t listen. Workers from India are proving that idea wrong.
Over 250 million workers over several sectors have unified in what some call “arguably the largest strike in human history.”
An incredible number of workers have unified, but what is their driving force? Following the introduction of new laws by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Punjab farmers may soon lose the minimum support required to sustain their agribusiness. Currently, farming is usually controlled by small landowners. However, those farmers have the Arthia to sell their crops. Farmers are able to sell their crops to the Arthia, who broker sales with larger corporations. The bill, which hopes to open up the agricultural sector to corporations, cuts out the middlemen and forces the small landowners to negotiate with larger businesses themselves. With the Arthia system, farmers were able to receive immediate payment and negotiate according to their needs. They would be under the thumb of a larger business, with nothing to defend themselves with.
The government had planned to pass the bill quietly beneath the chaos of the Covid-19 pandemic but instead has only outraged its citizens more. Under Covid, India has fallen into a deep recession. Their GDP has sunk to 23.9%, while its unemployment rates have shot up to an outstanding 27%.
As a result, workers have organized for more than two weeks, while threatening they had the supplies to last months. Besides being one of the largest protests in human history, what makes these demonstrations unprecedented are the fiery reactions to the government’s pushback. Earlier this year, the government had used the pandemic as an excuse to silence most physical protests. As the government recognized the intent of the protesters, they allowed workers to meet up at a distant location outside Delhi, far from the city’s concentrations of powers. Most avoided the site and went to the borders instead, refusing to leave until their demands are met. The government has met activists with water hoses, barricades, tear gas, and arrests, but are still yet to break the spirit of the crowd.
India’s government must realize the world is watching. People all over the world have held their own protests in solidarity with workers in India. Leaders have applauded the worker’s peaceful fights for human rights, watching the agriculture which globalization has led the world to rely on. The fight for general worker protections is far from over in India, but as long as the people are relentless, the government will have to listen.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.