Indian farmers burn effigies of Modi as anger against PM mounts

Stuti Mishra
·2-min read
Punjab’s farmers burn an effigy of prime minister Narendra Modi as part of protests against new agricultural reforms  (AFP via Getty Images)
Punjab’s farmers burn an effigy of prime minister Narendra Modi as part of protests against new agricultural reforms (AFP via Getty Images)

Farmers in India burned effigies of the prime minister Narendra Modi over the weekend, as protests continue to grow over agricultural reforms that many fear will leave them worse off.

Modi’s face was pinned to effigies burned in several places to mark the festival of Dussehra, where traditionally Hindus burn effigies of the demon king Ravana as a symbol of good triumphing over evil.

Images from several protests showed Modi effigies burning alongside those of major industrialists including Mukesh Ambani, India’s richest man, and the billionaire Gautam Adani.

Some farming groups have accused the government of buckling to lobbying from major corporations with the reforms, which will reduce the amount of produce bought at a guaranteed rate by the government and open up the agricultural sector to free-market forces.

Protests against the new farm laws have been most intense in agricultural northern states like Punjab and Haryana, the bread basket of India. Farmers in these states have blocked roads and railways and, in one incident, drove a tractor to dump it at the India Gate monument in the centre of Delhi.

Rahul Gandhi, a senior member and former leader of the opposition Congress party, tweeted that the level of anger on display set a “very dangerous precedent” and urged Mr Modi to “reach out” to farmers and hear their grievances.

In mid-September, India’s parliament passed three new reforms relating to the trade of agricultural products, making it easier for farmers to enter into a contract with private companies and sell their produce directly to them, instead of to existing government-regulated mandis (markets) where middlemen helped growers sell their harvests to either the a state-run company or private players.

With the new legislation, state governments, which earn an income through transactions at “mandis”, stand to lose out on tax revenues as trade moves out of their state or into the domain of private deals.

The government says these reforms will accelerate growth through private sector investment. The opposition, however, argues that the new farm legislation would weaken the position of the farmers and would not guarantee farmers receive the minimum support price (MSP) for their produce, calling the move “pro-corporate”.

The ruling BJP has accused Congress of misleading farmers, asserting that farmers will continue to receive a guaranteed MSP and no longer be tied to a specific wholesaler, freeing them to sell their produce anywhere in the country.

But the farm laws have angered even parties allied to the BJP, including Punjab-based Shiromani Akali Dal. Harsimrat Kaur, a member of the party, has resigned from his post as union minister of food processing industries in protest.