FATEHPUR, India (AP) – Ram Singh Patel’s day starts at 6 am, when he enters his farm near a railway line. For hours he works on the farm, where he grows pepper, onion, garlic, tomato and papaya. Sometimes, his wife, two sons and two daughters join him to help him or have lunch with him.
Upon arriving home after sunset, he packs the crops grown in jute bags and cardboard boxes, ready to be driven by a trailer to a nearby wholesale market, where the products are sold.
This is the daily life of Patel, a 55-year-old farmer in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Life is laborious and repetitive, but it is that of an unknown hero who, like millions of other small farmers, grows grain to feed India’s ever-growing population of more than 1.3 billion.
But lately, Patel has been a concerned man. Your earnings started to drop. Your kids don’t want to work on the farm. And he fears that the new agricultural laws introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government will favor large corporations that will cut prices and make family farms unviable, eventually leaving millions like him without land.
“Farmers will survive this attack by any means,” said Patel, who supports Modi but is opposed to the new laws. “But future generations will have no food because there will be no one to plant the grain. What will the Prime Minister eat then? “
The fabulous farmers in India, often called “annadatta” or “providers”, have long been seen as the heart and soul of a country where the agricultural industry supports more than half the population. But farmers have also seen their economic influence wane over the past three decades. Before accounting for a third of India’s gross domestic product, they now account for only 15% of the country’s $ 2.9 trillion economy.
To compound their concerns, are the new laws that have fueled widespread anger among farmers. Tens of thousands of them besieged New Delhi, the capital, for almost a month and crouched down with food and fuel supplies that could last for weeks. They threatened not to leave until their demands to abolish the laws are met.
The government says the new laws provide much needed reform for the agricultural sector. He tried to placate the angry farmers, but several rounds of negotiations to try to get them to end the protests failed.
Many of the protesting farmers are from the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, two of India’s largest agricultural states. But now rumors have started to increase in other states as well.
“Modi’s government is for the rich,” said Patel. “Your government is forcing these laws on us when we don’t even ask for them.”
The laws have exacerbated the existing resentment of farmers, who often complain about being ignored by the government.
“The common public is against these laws,” said Patel. “I don’t understand why the Prime Minister is not listening to them.”