FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Fort Wayne’s Indian community rallied today in support of farmers in their home country.
Farmers in India have been protesting controversial agriculture laws that they say will only hurt small growers in the country. As more protests are planned in larger cities around the world, our local Indian community felt the need to speak up as well. They decorated their vehicles with orange and green flags, stickers, and signs to spread the word that they support their farmers.
For most of them, the issue is personal.
“All of us are basically regionally farmers from the state of Punjab in India,” said Krishan Singh. “We still own property and land and those laws are trying to give our properties, our agriculture land, to the corporate world.”
According to Manveer Khatana, the three laws being protested ease rules around the pricing and storage of farm produce. One law eliminates an agriculture produce market committee, which makes it possible for farmers to get a minimum support price for their crops. Another gets rid of an essential commodities act which was intended to prevent corporations from buying produce at cheap prices, stockpiling inventory, and then reselling it for more money when demand increases. The last law makes it possible for corporations to tell farmers what to grow. Khatana said it also allows corporations to take a loan out on crops and leaves the farmer liable in the event the crop is damaged.
Onkar Mann said that most small growers would not be able to pay those prices, and therefore itwill make it easier for large corporations to step in and essentially take land from small growers.
“They’re going to acquire the land on a 30, 40, 50-year lease and the farmer’s going to have very little say in those leases,” said Mann. “Those are very small farmers. They don’t have any access to lawyers, they don’t have any access in the legal way. So, they will come in, they will take their land, and they will not have any say in it.”
If the protesters do lose their farms, Khatana said many small farmers will likely struggle to find other jobs.
“Sixty-percent of the Indian community are farmers. there is all-time high unemployment in India anyway,” said Khatana. “They’ll all be out of jobs, they will not have anything to do. They’ll have to rely on the mercy of the government.”
The caravan left from the Sikh Temple of Fort Wayne and traveled east through New Haven and up to Coliseum Blvd. They hope their rally will raise awareness to the public outside of India and encourage more people and politicians to speak out on the issue.
“We need someone who can interfere there,” said Kuldeep Singh. “[The] Indian government, they are listening, but they are trying to ignore it. It’s already been sixty days. People are sitting on the roads.”
“Hundreds of people are dying,” added Mann. “Kids, I mean, we’re talking about teenagers. We’re talking about older senior citizens are dying.”
There are planned protests at Indian consulates around the world set to happen on Tuesday. Some from Fort Wayne’s Indian community had planned to travel and protest in front of the Indian consulate in Chicago but instead chose to raise awareness at home.