India’s family farmers showed ‘Uprising spirit’ in their fight for land

The protests have raised concerns about whether the Israeli government was successful in holding on to its undeclared occupation.


By Juman Ghani, Jehanzeb Afridi and Yadira Garhi

Thomson Reuters Foundation | Toronto, Canada

What Can Canada Learn from the ‘Uprising Spirit’ of India’s Family Farmers?

Carrying the image of a young man who has torn out pages from his medical school curriculum to hand-write signatures, about 10,000 farmers held a rally in Sanand, Gujarat state, India, on June 18th.

Like thousands of other families, the people of the village have depended on their land as a source of livelihood for generations. But the uncertainty over what may happen to their property, and their future, has left them feeling vulnerable and worried.

Only a handful of people actively campaigned for land reforms in the village of 30,000, as reported by Indian media. Despite that, the farmers’ plight can be largely explained by the nature of their land-use.

As sugarcane fields are extremely productive, much of the land has been acquired under a plan to use it for fodder and sugarcane farming. In response, the farmers stopped cultivating sugarcane two years ago and, without financial compensation or an irrigation facility, continued to farm cane even as financial support dried up.


Farmers are increasingly angry and assertive in challenging what they feel is unfair land ownership. Because Indian laws are inconsistent in categorizing land ownership, it can be hard for owners to track their status. Moreover, current laws have the effect of favoring industrialization at the expense of small and medium-sized farmers.

From the perspective of many Indian farmers, the Indian prime minister’s $200 billion “Make in India” program – aimed at promoting the use of domestic products – has received little attention from urban communities. Many farmers believe urban centers are more attuned to foreign retailers and industrial investors, which have little concern for local people.

In the Palestinian Territories, a tent camp for displaced people attracted a lot of attention in 2016. But when did Palestine become relevant? Didn’t Arab Spring events kick off in Tunisia, Egypt and Yemen? Why did a small group of Palestinian farmers in a small village outside of Ramallah, meet and come together as one voice?

Renting land for their crops for years was not an option. They now rent land from local residents, whom they do not know. So, whether they are providing electricity and water for homes and eating traditional Palestinian food, or visiting schools and clinics in nearby villages to learn new skills, they simply need work. They, and the people of their village, are entrepreneurs.

(Photo Courtesy / A.Q. Khan)

The media went crazy about the situation in India after the farmers started to protest in May. The government, with its finance ministers and deputy prime ministers rushing to the village in a show of solidarity, showed some signs of promise.

So what can Canada learn from the “uprising spirit” of the Indians? We have not had farm strikes here in Canada in decades. Rather, we’ve had bargaining with the federal government over tariffs. That makes no sense to us. Canada should be exporting more to India.

Ontario doesn’t have any natural resources. But, in the 10 years from 2010 to 2016, Ontario exports to India have tripled, according to Statistics Canada. What do we export? Value-added high-end food products like maple syrup and chocolate, butter, maple cream, jams and salsas, and cheese.

The problem is, we have a too slow economy. It isn’t good for our export markets and our reputation.

India, by contrast, is a booming market for a lot of good products. The uprisings in the U.S. and in Europe have resulted in cheap imports. In India, domestic producers have seen export markets dry up, and the import prices of commodities soar. This dynamic has led to a big gap in the amount of local food production compared to the demand. We need to learn from the Indian example, especially in terms of good agricultural policy, to meet the future needs of the population.

(Photo Courtesy / Kishor Parikh)

(Note: Kishor Parikh is the president of the Canadian Association of Food Processors. C

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