What has the Indian economy failed

The anger of the Indian farmers

"We cannot shape the new century with laws from the past century," said Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday. Reforms are necessary for economic development. But the economically liberal prime minister was unable to dampen the anger and desperation of countless smallholders and their families. Well over half of all Indians still work in agriculture.

"Our children are going to starve! What could be more worrying than that?" Said farmer Ved Singh to the AFP news agency. He and his colleagues fear that, following the planned deregulation of Indian agricultural industry, corporations could depress prices and destroy the livelihoods of smaller farmers.

Small farmers versus large corporations

That is why tens of thousands of farmers who have been waiting for days at the gates of the capital New Delhi have blocked important access roads into the 20 million metropolis. They are demanding the repeal of three government laws designed to open the sector to private investors. So far, farmers have been able to sell their produce to state cooperatives, which guarantee them minimum prices. In future, they should sell their products on the open market - including to supermarket chains.

National Farmers Day of Action in India: The train is coming - not

India's economically liberal government argues that the reform will primarily benefit India's 150 million farmers and their families. Now they could negotiate directly with the big companies. The farmers, however, refer to the state of Bihar with its largely liberalized market, where farmers would now have to sell their goods at a discount of 25 to 30 percent.

The farmers are not alone

The protesters experience broad solidarity: railway workers, truck drivers, teachers and other unions supported the farmers on their national day of action. In many western and eastern states of the subcontinent, protesters stopped trains and set up roadblocks. Authorities in the capital and across the country tightened security and deployed additional forces.

Most of the protesters in New Delhi come from the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, the breadbasket of India. Their strike is one of the largest protests in India in years. Five rounds of talks between the farmers and the government have so far remained unsuccessful. A new round of talks is to start on Wednesday.

rb / uh (afp, ap, dpa)