Hundreds of women, including widows of farmers who allegedly committed suicide, joined the protests against the new agricultural laws of the Modi government on Wednesday, according to news agency Reuters. These women say that because of these new laws, their livelihoods are in danger.
Farmers have been protesting for nearly a month over the laws enacted in September. There is talk of making the agriculture sector deregulated in these laws and it allows the farmers to sell their crop to the buyers apart from the government wholesale markets. Small farmers fear that this will end the guarantee of minimum prices for their crops, and they will have to be kind to big retailers.
Harshdeep Kaur, a 40-year-old widowed woman from Punjab who came from Punjab at a demonstration site on the border of New Delhi, told the news agency Reuters, “If these black laws come, more farmers will be burdened with debt. More mothers and sisters will be widowed like me. “
Harassment of troubled farmers has been a serious issue in India for years. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, in 2018, about 10,350 farmers and agricultural laborers committed suicide, accounting for about 8% of all suicides in India.
Harshadeep Kaur says that her husband committed suicide three years ago. Taking a passport size photo of her husband, she says that her husband had incurred a loan of five lakh rupees.
Ramandeep Singh Mann, a farmer from Punjab, says that late Wednesday, a 65-year-old Sikh saint committed suicide at a protest venue. Maan says, Sant Baba Ram Singh wrote in his suicide note that he was “shocked to see the condition of the protesting farmers”.
Holding government apathy responsible for Singh’s suicide, opposition leader Rahul Gandhi said that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government should immediately repeal the law.
Under the reforms made in three laws, the rules for sale, price and storage of agricultural produce have been relaxed.
Prime Minister Modi tried to assure the farmers that the changes would create new possibilities for them, but very few believed their words. Several rounds of talks between the farmers union leaders and the government have failed.
“We will continue the protest,” says Gurbaksh Singh, a farmer of a farmers union present at a demonstration site. Gurbax Singh says that dozens of buses and tractors are being arranged to bring more women from Punjab, which remained the center of the movement.