During the month of October 2018, thousands of farmers from across India marched on New Delhi in in protest and in order to draw attention to the challenges that the countryside faces. Protests have also disrupted life in cities like Kolkata and Mumbai. The farmers have made demands for higher prices for their crops, cheaper fuel and electricity bills and other changes. The government reports that farmers make around $100 a month on average, although the reality is often much less. One leader of the protests, Yogendra Yadav has said that “for a majority of them, the income is probably less than $50 a month. That is the level at which they survive”. Last year there was a protest held in New Delhi where Farmers held skulls to bring awareness to the many farmers who have committed suicide after struggling with debt and crop failure. At least 300,000 farmers have killed themselves since 1995 or have attempted to quit farming, although there is a lack of other routes they can take to make a living. When there is such a great level of unrest and disorder in a country, political leaders must make sure to listen and act on the problems promptly.
The Indian agricultural sector plays a massive role for the country, making up around 16 percent of the country’s economy and providing up to 49 percent of employment according to India’s Economic Survey. Out of India’s 1.3 billion people, most live in rural areas.
The Indian rupee has fallen greatly in value, and as a result fuel prices in India have increased to the highest level ever before. Diesel prices rose 25 cents in 2018 due to higher prices for crude oil and increased costs of oil imports. Farmers not only work day and night to produce their crops, but must also pay high prices for necessities like fertilizer. When farmers go to sell their crops, they often do not receive enough to make a profit and many of the farmers are deep in debt from trying to carry out their work. India’s erratic weather patterns have also been a challenge for farmers. In some areas there has been prolonged droughts that can destroy a farmers work. Up to half of India’s farmers do not have access to irrigation systems and rely on rain.
Rural support is very important politically for any party to win. Opposition to India’s current Prime Minister is quickly growing and could seriously pose a problem for him if he wishes to be succesfull in this years scheduled elections. The federal government sets the prices for produce and also buys produce from farmers, and government investment in the rural sector has run short. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to double rural income by 2022 and has raised the minimum support price for certain crops. This will not be enough to make an impact on most rural communities. If Prime Minister Modi is not motivated to make change in order to save such a large section of his country’s people, then hopefully he will be motivated politically.