In the pantheon of Hindu gods, Lakshmi, wife of Vishnu, is the goddess of wealth, prosperity, riches and abundance, and as such is worshipped by millions of Indian peasants. But for months, she has remained deaf to their prayers and offerings, it seems.
Thus, the Hindu nationalist government, for which they have so massively voted, is turning its back on them. The nationalist policy that stigmatizes hundreds of millions of citizens is not our purpose, no more than the apocalyptic management of the pandemic in March 2020, when in order to manage a pandemic that was to ravage the country, more than 200 million homeless poor people found themselves "confined in the open air" and thrown onto the roads.
No, we are talking about the liberalization of the agricultural products market initiated by Narendra Modi and his populist BJP clique. Well advised by the food industry lobby, new legal directives have been promulgated allowing the deregulation of the agricultural sector. The government is planning reforms that will undermine the minimum purchase prices of foodstuffs, especially wheat and rice, threatening the survival of tens of millions of small farmers. Agriculture is an important sector for the Indian economy: 15% of GDP (in France it is below 4%). But it is one of the most archaic, environmentally unfriendly and least productive agriculture in the world, with tiny farms (85% of them are less than two hectares).
We already knew the precarious situation of the peasants. One out of every three poor people in the World is an Indian farmer. About 60% of Indians are rural people (450 million of whom are farmers), who sink into poverty. 2 main causes. Climate change is compounded by the perverse effects of intensive agriculture launched in the 1960s to fight famine. Groundwater is lower and lower, water is polluted, soils are worn out, yields are falling, parasites are returning, and cancers are multiplying, in a system of purchase prices hitherto capped, but still guaranteed by the State. Thus, to pay rents or inputs, farmers often borrow from usurers. At the slightest incident, they are unable to repay and end their lives by swallowing their useless pesticides (60,000 committed suicide in 2017).
Although reforms are needed, the government wants to modernize this system by now allowing farmers to sell what they want to whomever they want, supposedly to increase their profitability. But the producers fear that they will find themselves in an unequal face-to-face situation with the large agribusiness and distribution groups, which will define the rules of the game and impose even lower prices. On January 12, to calm their anger, the Supreme Court temporarily suspended the application of the law, but farmers are demanding its outright repeal.
And since then, there has been revolt. For nearly three months now, hundreds of thousands of peasants have camped around New Delhi in protest. On January 26th, the National Day, the Supreme Court authorized, for the first time, farmers to enter New Delhi. A specific route was dedicated to them by the police, parallel to the official parade, and in limited numbers. Nothing happened as planned. Revolted, the farmers forced their tractors through the police roadblocks in the morning to enter New Delhi en masse. A day of clashes between police and demonstrators followed.
Narendra Modi, who claims to be the strong man who has the courage to make reforms (which is why he is exceptionally popular: more than 70% in favor), now portrays the farmers as scheming rioters. He no longer hesitates to speak of "parasites," led by "destructive forces from abroad. No more dialogue and appeasement: a state of siege has been decreed. A Putin-like rhetoric, or Erdogan-like…
So many hands in this country are reaching up to heaven in vain. What is Lakshmi doing?