Below is a full transcript of our podcast episode, titled Indian Farmers – A Deep Dive Indian Farmers Protest (Part 2) – Building Allyship with Palestinian, North American, and Indigenous Farmers. The episode was dialog between Vin and Kam from PlanEvents.ca, Dr. Harjit Grewal from the University of Calgary, and Imad Ahmad from The Olive Branch Ranch.
Scroll down to see the transcript and/or listen to the episode here.
In this podcast episode, Vin and I have a dialog with Dr. Harjit Singh Grewal and Amudi.
Dr. Harjit Singh Grewal is a professor at the University of Calgary, where he focuses on the Punjab region and Sikh religion. Amudi is a farmer in Washington State, where he owns and operates the Olive Branch Ranch. Amudi also comes from a family of Palestinian farmers, who have spent generations harvesting olives and raising livestock.
In this dialog, we discuss the plight of Indian farmers, and analyze the plight of Palestinian and North American farmers, in an effort to identify key similarities across these different groups. We ultimately try to analyze what has happened to all of these groups of farmers, to understand and predict what the future of Indian farmers might look like, if India’s 3 newly passed agricultural bills are not re-written.
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Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 00:03
This podcast episode is a follow up episode to our last episode where we interviewed Dr. Harjeet Grewal on the ongoing protests in India with regards to the recent agriculture bills ever passed. And in that episode, we dove deep into those passed laws. And in this episode, we are going to have a dialogue with some additional guests and co hosts as well. So high level I’ll kind of introduce them real quick. So we have Harjeet here again, professor at University of Calgary, he’ll be kind of approaching this topic from the lens of Punjab and India in a grander sense. I also have our other co guest, Amudi, I call him Amudi, he also goes by Imad, he is a family farmer here in Washington State. His family he also comes from ancestral ancestrally family of Palestinian farmers. So that’s so he’s very familiar with how farming ties to one’s identity, and then have my co host event here. So what we’re gonna do in this episode is we’re going to essentially understand what is what exactly these the implications of these laws mean. In a practical sense for farmers in India, we’re gonna draw parallels with similar things that have happened across the globe, both in North America to farmers here, along with also farmers in the Palestinian territories. So before I, we go, we move forward. Um, do you want to acknowledge that, you know, from our perspective, there are three distinct issues, and we’re only going to focus on one of them. The first distinct issue that I’ve identified is there is the problem with the Indian government, unilaterally passing the agricultural bills, without consulting the farmers. The second issue is the the farmers who are peacefully protesting, they are not being given that right to peacefully protest. For those following they’ve been met by water cannons, tear gassing, and so on. And the third issue is related to the implications of the agricultural laws on Indian farmers. And that is what we’re going to focus on in this podcast. So next, I’m going to hand off to a moody he’ll kind of speak, you know, from the lens of a North American farmer, and what farmers have been experiencing globally, but also touch on the Palestinian side. And then we’ll hand off to her. And we’ll have an open dialogue to essentially connect the dots, you know, where have we seen what we’re seeing in India now? Where have we seen this before? Outside of India? How can we use those themes and learnings to help support farmers in India? Before I hand off to Amudi, I want to check in real quick Harjeet, Vin, either of you have any things you want to add in?
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 03:18
I think, I think I think that’s a great focus. And we can kind of parse out some of those bigger implications. And that’s really where the heart of the matter lies, it seems with the farmers on the ground, so that’ll be a good place to focus for now.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 03:33
Awesome, thank you, Vin how about how about, you?
Vin (PlanEvents.ca) 03:36
No, I think it’s, it’s awesome that we have these two on our podcast today. And hopefully, our listeners can learn a few things. And yeah, let’s get going.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 03:50
Awesome. Okay, Amudi, I’m gonna hand off to you, once you get going.
Amudi (The Olive Branch Ranch) 03:55
Yeah, sure. So I appreciate you guys having me on, known you for a while. And you always give me a platform. We did a podcast a few months ago, when the COVID first kicked off, and we’re talking about the, you know, the landscape of farming and you know, how things are looking and, you know, people and people are dealing with a lot of issues. It’s, it’s a really interesting time. The Indian government seemed to just push this legislation through a few months back and hurried it through while you know, everyone was busy with while the world was busy with COVID. And that’s something we’ve, you know, we’ve seen other governments do pass things unilaterally without even consulting constituents of farmers groups and whatnot. You know, farming is hard, whether it’s in America, Middle East, compound, you know, global warming, climate change on that with, you know, a very interconnected global market, and things get very complicated. So, yeah, I appreciate you guuys having me on. It seems like there’s Yeah, like the the issues that you raised. As far as the Indian government passing this legislation without talking to the farmers first or the farmers advocate groups, it’s from what I can, you know, see, which is a, you know, 30,000 foot elevation kind of view here is that it leaves farmers vulnerable. And and that that’s, you know, a key component that we see over and over is that indigenous folks are left out, they’re not brought to the table, when consulting what’s the, you know, we try to do what we say we want to do what’s best for them, but we don’t consult them when we’re, when we’re making laws of passing this legislation. So it makes them vulnerable and vulnerable to corporations. That’s one of the biggest things I’m seeing here. And, you know, these protests started in, you know, the Punjab region in the Is it the Haryana region, yeah, and this is, you know, these are considered like the bread baskets of India, and, you know, sort of sort of the region. And it’s spread, why? Because the Indian government, you know, decided to clamp down and use violence to suppress these protests, which is, you know, that was not the right thing to do. You know, I don’t want to get too involved in the political aspect, I’m, I’m here to learn from the professor today, but that’s kind of this My, my, like, initial view of this is okay, it was passed without consulting the farmers and the citizens. And this is how they make their livelihood. And, you know, we’re seeing this kind of, because of, because of climate change, because of a lot of other factors we’re seeing, you know, basically millions of people from the countryside, you know, in Indian and other areas in the world move out of the countryside, and into these sort of mega cities. Due to policy due to climate change, and, you know, becoming, you know, going to the, to these mega cities to try to find the work when, you know, they would rather be doing what they love to do, which is farming, which is an, you know, used to be an honorable sort of thing that people looked at as an honorable endeavor. But now people look down upon it, or whatnot. I don’t know why. But we’re in for some interesting times here, if we think that we could just pass up the farmer, I don’t know where people think they get their food from, but, or an interesting time. So that’s just basically my kind of intro and look forward to hearing from everybody. And we’ll talk more about a lot of other things, I’m sure.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 07:38
Awesome. Yeah, I was I’m kind of thinking, you know, the high level like, common components I see between the concern of the farmers in India and also, what were the common components that I would say contributed to essentially the degradation, both a Palestinian identity, the economy and so on, is land and water. harjeet do you think land and water are and what are your thoughts on that from a Punjabi Indian come aspect in terms of land and water?
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 08:18
In terms of the implications, so are you saying Kamran? or?
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 08:22
Yeah, yeah, like I said, like, the broader implications for like, where India is specific, especially Punjab, where, where farming is headed. So we take into consideration of pre existing conditions to the land, you know, talking about like, desertification, that the water table is dropping. And then we consider the past agricultural bills. Do you mean, do you think I’ve kind of identified some key areas that will act as I think are important components to either making or breaking the farming system in India? I guess, what are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 08:59
Yeah, no, I think so. There, there are. So many we have talked about this in in the last podcast a little bit, we touched on it, but there has been a process and ongoing process of farming is an important sector in India, it has been so since India became an independent country in 1947. And the concern for quite some time was precisely you know, maintaining a economic structure that benefits to people so that food is sent to, you know, feed the country, right. And that it’s done in a sustainable way so that it does, it’s beneficial. For the farmer who is producing it, he’s, he or she actually is able to derive a livelihood and have some of that sense of honor and pride in their profession. pretty important. One, right one, which provides food for everybody, right. And then,on top of that, maintaining some, you know, safeguards for the environment. So those those things have been earmarked kind of, not legally in the Constitution, per se. But they’ve been kind of part and parcel of policy around agriculture. And they were central to creating those APMC markets we talked about, and the ongoing conversations of kind of telling you guys about previous podcasts, and there’s been, you know, since at least the 90s, a conversation around how to improve further in the country, some of the gains that were had in the Revolution, that kind of really impacted Haryana and Punjab in in the 70s and 80s. By the 90s, you see that kind of plateauing into the, into the 2000s. So these are ongoing concerns or concerns. The federal government has commissioned numerous reports regarding this, and and there’s, there’s a bunch of concerns. And those are related to water and land, land in a couple of ways. Because it’s not simply a sustainability issue. It’s also a decreasing size of individual farmers land acquisitions, and, and difficulty in being able to purchase more land. So there’s, there’s a few issues with land, water has to do with depleting depleting water tables in the ground. Also, there’s, you know, there’s recognition on the, on the, at least in paper in the reports that, you know, advances and adopting new technologies in terms of irrigation and things like that can be beneficial as well. So there’s kind of a few conversations and also where in the country studies have been commissioned for looking east, actually, of Haryana and Punjab, into the kind of gangetic Plains, the kind of Heartland, quote unquote, historically of, you know, the Indic civilization, let’s say, trying to figure out how to harvest the water better in those regions, and create sustainable farming and expand farming over on that side of it, as well. So there’s a few things that relate to that. Yeah.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 13:24
Got it. And yeah, the reason I asked that is, as I was doing some research to understand also, what how those components manifest in you know, where Palestinian agriculture is today. I also identified like, land and water over big, big components and Amudi, I’ll ask you to keep me honest, but like a high level. So I’m gonna give you two, two periods. So 1967, the Palestinian territories had 2400 square kilometers 2400 square kilometers of farmland, and they had reduced to 1700 square kilometers, about 25 years later, and I assume and so that was like by the early 90s. So that land is shrinking. And in addition to that, today, like as at least 2019 looking at the West Bank, as an example. So there are aquifers underneath the West Bank, and 85% of the water from those aquifers. Do not go to the West Bank, they go to essentially like Israel kind of spouts it off to other areas I don’t I think it definitely to the Israeli territories and possibly to other neighboring countries I can’t remember and the water that is left ends up getting polluted so then the farmers are left with it you know, the Palestinian farmers are left with not enough water and whatever is available. It’s It’s It’s polluted. So
It was really hard for me to ignore, like, the similarities between the two. And I mean, Amudi do you have? Can you keep me honest, kind of let me know your thoughts on that.
Amudi (The Olive Branch Ranch) 15:11
You’re absolutely right. I mean, there was this, you know, let you know, land and water rights are huge. And you saw a shrinking of the ability to the ability to dig wells, the ability to, you know, manage water, the ability to, you know, it’s not an erosion of rights, basically, after the land grab of 48, after the land grab of 67. And you saw that that water was diverted to and you know, without getting too political. It wasn’t managed correctly, and you’re seeing mismanagement, and you’re seeing mismanagement all around the world, you’re seeing mismanagement, by corporations, corporations can get away with things that, you know, the little guy can’t, and, you know, you know, with the introduction of fertilizers and GMOs and pesticides, and everything else, that led to a huge inequality between rural farmers and in India, the same thing in India, it led to a huge inequality between rural farmers and, you know, large, large landowners and, you know, there’s this thing and in America and India and and all other places, it’s, it’s just basically get bigger get out. And, you know, you got to get big, you gotta, you have to be a, you have to increase the numbers, you have to increase productivity, and there’s a focus on productivity rather than, you know, focus on, you know, is this regenerative? Are we doing what’s right for the farmer and right for the land? Or are we just is just about about a No, just about the bottom line. So, yeah. Water, water, you know, there are going to be more wars fought over water than ever fought over oil, unfortunately, you’re seeing a lot of those issues with neighboring countries. And, you know, a lot of a lot of these issues, a lot of, you know, you see a lot of protests worldwide, we see a lot of protests in the Middle East region. And, you know, I would even argue that, you know, the, the conflicts in Syria, have roots with water and land, you had young men and young people not being able to have access to land, and not being able to, you know, basically have their voices heard, you take that person off the land, whether they’re a Bedouin in, in Palestine, or a, you know, a farmer in the Punjab area, and you basically say, oh, you’re worthless. And you know, that thing that your family has been doing for 1000s of years, you got, you can’t do that anymore. We know a corporation that’s, that does a better and we’re going to give them the right to this land, or the right to this, for the right to this night, this water, and you just got to go figure, figure out a job as a laborer somewhere, you got to just go construct buildings or something. And that’s not really what they want to do. And then you’re seeing these, these flare ups all around the world. So we got to get back to the ground level, and we got to listen to people.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 18:12
Agree, yeah, and you know, another theme, and I get the benefit of not, you know, coming, I’m really sitting in between the cultural fences of you know, because I’m not Punjabi. I’m not Palestinian, but I have the benefit of having a view into both, both cultures, both of their issues. And one theme that I captured between both, and I’ll kind of hand off to you Harjeet is, let’s focus on farmers in Punjab, there seems to be an an inseparable connection to the land, to the harvesting of crops to to being a farmer, and that is something I also identified amongst Palestinian farmers. So it’s not just about making money, money, it’s the essence of these people, it’s their identity. So I’d like to hear the Punjabi perspective on that Harjeet. What are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 19:06
Yes, so I think I think that there is so I mean, you know, there is a system in broadly speaking, most of South Asia, people are familiar with called the caste system. But within that, there’s something called Zaati or Zaat. And those are kind of that ancestral occupations that people would have pursued and kind of passed down generation from generation so one of those jockeys is some Punjabi they call it Jatt. Or in like haryanvi, or other languages in Hindi, they’ll call it Jaat just changes the vowel in the middle there, but um, those primarily would be who these folks are out on the streets when they’re protesting as farmers, right? You have other people out there who are associated. There’s those people I mentioned. Again in the previous podcast, the Aarthiyas are the kind of middlemen, the moneylenders. Some of those come from the Jatt background with some of them come from other backgrounds as well. So those folks have actually joined in in recent since the previous podcast last last week or so, last 10 days. And we’ve had laborers, agrarian laborers, but also the migrant farm labor. And urban laborers that are affected by these laws have also come out in in large numbers. And we had talked about this in terms of the moment we were speaking from last time, there was people coming from all the affected states. So at this point, now you have people I’m not just from Punjab, but from any of those farms, like pretty much all of the states where agriculture happens in India, our farmers are in Delhi. So you have from Rajasthan, with their Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, there’s virtually like, you know, farming, farmer representation. And it’s part of these ancestral families, it’s coming from all over the nation people have kind of come together and are sharing their stories. And there, there really is. You know, there’s there’s in Punjab, and, you know, maybe Amudi, there’s something similar. Over over, we’re speaking about is that, you know, farming, drives the culture in not just Punjab, but Punjabi culture is really central to bollywood movies, you know, the kind of the Bhangra a lot of the kind of, you see, a lot of people are often Bollywood Actors adopting the turban and the beard. In stories, there’s a lot of kind of this, this, that hero persona, historically develops around the just male characters. So that’s kind of also what farmers are reacting to, because farmers are feeling that their livelihood, their lives, their culture, and really a big part of what is central to modern day Indian cultural life is at stake here. Not it’s not just an economic question. And I think you’re right, who the in the sense that this isn’t new in, in India, you know, we’re kind of trying to shy away from the history of this little bit. But these these issues were central in the late 70s. And central in the 60s for Punjab, wanting to retain more of its resource rights. So there is there is that eventually led to what is being thrown around now as this so called kKhalistan movement. There is a part of that that is the khalistan movement, for sure. But some of the roots of that are connected to questions of resources, water and land being waterline electricity, electricity being tied to the water production, were central to this. And that did lead to violence, and it did prompt that separatist movements. So there’s, there’s kind of even in what the rhetoric of the Indian state is that these are terrorists. These are Khalistanis. They’re actually in historically is just like you mentioned with Syria, a very real question about basic access to resources. So that that violence is not just coming out of nowhere. So even even as they’re throwing that around, you know, people who are hearing this should be mindful that these are the root of these issues is water, land and sovereignty over the resources decentralization at some level rather than further centralizing, which the bills seem to. There’s two parts of the bills one is that they’re centralizing and getting around constitutional allocation of agricultural states. And they’re doing that together with kind of playing into agro industry or global kind of agricultural trends, right. So those two things together threaten production, but also consumption in India access to food. So we can talk about that a bit more, too. But that’s how this is connecting to farmers. It threatens like their culture as much as their livelihood and everything else.
Amudi (The Olive Branch Ranch) 25:17
And does that mean, private, you know, does that mean increased privatization? I mean, is it is that my, am I correct in assuming that, that, that there in this bill, it means increased privatization of things, it means increase, increasing Corporation’s ability to, you know, land grabbing resource grab, and basically means a harder time for the Indian farmer to get by? Am I looking at that correctly?
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 25:51
Yeah, so I think, you know, in the current context, um, it’s kind of, so again, there. So in the India is constitutionally, a very central centralized system. Right. And what’s interesting is, and this is one of the questions for the farmers that’s been brought up over and over again, is that agriculture is a state matter. So the states run agriculture, and we talked about this. Kamran before with some of the previous versions of trying to reform agriculture, I mentioned that, you know, there’s been a few attempts. And very few of the states adopted those federal reforms, right. So what’s interesting is, the government is trying to get around that inability, or the unwillingness and unwillingness is probably there, because the states understand the dynamic of agriculture better and are concerned about the corporatization at some level, right. So the state has turned to creating commodifying exactly what you’re saying it actually is using, it’s trying to redefine agriculture and food as a commodity, rather than a necessity, as we redefine what agriculture is, and just some things in connection with that, that should be concerning is that, you know, in the last again, since we spoke, there’s been, you know, kind of footage released. And so I mentioned that there was that meeting, were they the person referred from the government referred to, you know, if they were to throw the bills out, they would get a phone call from Adani. Right? Asking them what’s what’s going on. So there’s been several instances in that sense that also show that there’s bigger things at play here. There was some footage released about regarding a train that had been painted with a Donny group, you know, marketing for, you know, flour and things like that. And there was also a, there’s talk about how in prior to the in the summer, again, the Adani group and other other groups had purchased land and created silos for the hoarding of food, which is one of the things that the second bill does, it allows people to hoard food, they had created silos on hundreds of acres of land. This is in the summer, the bills are passed in September. So people have began to farmers have been kind of saying what’s going on here? How, how would these guys know that they should be doing this? Right? Um, the third thing is they’ve the government had signed with UAE, a $7 billion contract to create a food corridor from India to UAE. And if you come around, I we talked about this, but just remind our listeners and for moody as well, India’s a country that can’t feed its own citizens. I told you that statistic word, if there was, you know, most of the country lives with very little income. But if 80% of the country were to spend its whole income on food, it wouldn’t be able to meet its nutrient needs. So imagine that and your government is creating a $7 billion food court her to another place, right.
Amudi (The Olive Branch Ranch) 29:51
To export your food out to other countries.
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 29:54
Yeah, so So I think there there’s, it’s it’s a it’s an interesting use of the Laws kind of to use law. Again, this isn’t unique in India, but to, you know? Yeah, yeah.
Amudi (The Olive Branch Ranch) 30:08
Yeah, it happens in Egypt, it happens in a lot of other countries where, you know, people are basically starving, and the government and through corruption, a lot of its corruption and a lot of these areas and, you know, people’s buddies get get no, like you said, they’re storing large amounts of grain they’re storing storing large amounts of rice, wheat, and whatnot. And, and instead of they know when things are going to happen before they happen, and they’re putting others out of business. And they’re using the the laws on the books to basically squeeze. Is that is that an accurate depiction of what’s happening?
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 30:51
That definitely speaks to the concerns. Right. And I think so again, so what’s interesting is that these bills, one of the other things farmers have asked over and over again, is that these these bills effectively do nothing. In the sense of these are policies that have already been put forward. And they’ve been implemented by some states, the places that they’ve been rejected are in Punjab and in Haryana. So most of the other states, I mentioned, farming actually is done in this way the apmc market and the guaranteed price, the MSP is I’m working, for least in some places for the last 10 years, if not longer.
Amudi (The Olive Branch Ranch) 31:43
And that’s why they want to do away with right.
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 31:46
That’s what they want to do away with. So Punjab and Haryana like, Oh, Kamran, we had had that map, I don’t know, maybe, that if you there’s a map where you can look at the agricultural production of the countries of Punjab and Haryana are still kind of the most dense in terms of agricultural production. And they’re the ones who are refusing this right. So again, it’s kind of like how they kind of maybe contort the laws in order to get around the refusal because once it’s a commodity, the state is the one that has no power, and the center has all power and determination law. So they can get around the unwillingness of the Punjab and Haryana states to implement these things. And thereby, get into that, and this isn’t a I mean, so we can look at international examples. So um, you know, in, I mentioned this last time, but in 1996, y’all in the US had your agricultural reforms. And there was a report in 1999, by Robert De Scott, that mentioned, by 1998, you had a $13 billion deficit in foreign trade balance. So just within two years, you saw a huge change. This is despite the fact that what the laws were trying to do was cut out until this sounds familiar, right? cut out the middleman, allow farmers to create trade deals directly increase the market by spreading it to Latin America and through the World Trade Organization, eliminate restrictions on planting decisions. So again, that what the farmers are saying is that the MSP restricts their decisions what they plant because they’re whatever they get a higher price for a given plant. Um, that’s been destructive to the land obviously in places like Punjab because and Haryana because they’re planting rice in a in a environment that is not conducive to rice cultivation, right. So you can see that this is this is a problem but with the farmers coming together, there’s been instances in people have, you know, with Bihar, for instance, there was a farmer who’s giving an example and he was saying, if I plant maize, if I plant corn on the I can get a contract today, again so it’s not new, I can go to a company get a contract, they’re gonna say, We’ll pay you X amount of dollars. Let’s say he’s so example he said was they’ll give me a rupee for every, you know, corn, the cob that I give them, that goes to, you know, the middleman, the middleman increases it to $15. And he said, if you go to any of these urban centers, you’re going to be buying that same corn for 100 rupees. So the thing I get I get paid a one rupee for sells for 100 rupees, right. And that’s part of the direct to the company, right when you get rid of the middleman. So the inflation is massive, right? So there’s an issue there in terms of the producer, but also the consumer, because again, in India, the middle class, food guaranteed is going to potentially be threatened. And so that’s what the farmers are trying to raise awareness about as well that it’s not just us, in five or 10 years, your food might be so exorbitantly expensive that you also can’t eat like we’re hungry right now. But other parts of the country might be as well.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 35:49
Yeah, I was gonna just jump in real quick. So I think the as we were able to speak to you know how farming is tied to the identities of so much like so many Indians, we also there was kind of reference to this idea of stockpiling. So just real quick to put it in layman’s terms, it’s very impractical, possibly improbable. For your average farmer to be able to store transport, and refrigerate crops accordingly. To get it to a center versus a big company has all the infrastructure they need to do that. And that just kind of that just kind of squeezes a little little guy out out of the equation. That also kind of reminds me of also, like, if we look in North America, the cost of chicken, let’s just say like, some cheap chicken at the grocery store versus organic chicken, it’s like, it’s a hard sell. I think for farmers to get people to pay multiples on organic goods, when you’ve got like these giant corporations that have kind of sold consumers on you know, don’t buy that buy this, it’s so much more affordable, but they don’t necessarily know it’s going into their body. So I do want to kind of touch on the identity aspect of the Palestinians to farming kind of go and I’m, I’m harping on this, because Amudi has first hand experience in that. But before I hand over to Amudi, I do want to check in with Vin Vin, do you have any, any questions? Any things you want to add?
Vin (PlanEvents.ca) 37:31
So, you mentioned also money? Is it on Ambani, Ambani’s the one that owns Reliance Industries, right? Am I correct? Yes, yeah. Okay, so from what I understand is that these guys have a motive on getting rid of the middleman or getting rid of getting rid of the MSP so that the farmers will go under and they can just come in and purchase and buy the land off of these farmers because the farmers can’t afford to keep the land, right? Is it? Is it safe to assume that that’s what the plan is?
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 38:17
Right. So this is really interesting, I think farmers have a very keen understanding of this reality and what this kind of chess game is. So the the reality right now, right, so we talked about this before, um, a little bit. So the reality of the APMC markets and the guaranteed pricing, and some of those, the cartelization I’ve spoken about. So what you have is a guaranteed price, it’s set by the government. It’s established before the crops are planted so that the farmers can decide what they plan and have some reassurance that they will get that price now why that’s important is because the farmers are people who are not able to provide this debt farming right. So they they have to get loans from those Aarthiyas. People who they generally have some type of relationship with a long standing, potentially multi generational relationship with they borrow the money, looking at the guaranteed price, and then they’re going to plant what happens when they go to the auction, which is what the APMC is, is that there’s already been kind of this preconceived plan to not give the farmer that price. There’s already alternate markets and the farmers who are heavily indebted or really need them. Right away, just sell it for whatever they can get it for. So they get often, even in the auctions, they’re not getting the price that they’re getting, they were guaranteed. And outside the market, they’re not getting the prices. This is prior to any big agro industry conglomerate coming in. Right. Now what, what the reality already is, is that farming is again, Amudi was saying it being expensive – A lot of farmers are heavily indebted. Um, there’s a lot of issues around indenture including farmer suicides. Um, it’s, it’s a big issue.
Amudi (The Olive Branch Ranch) 40:36
~300,000 farmers committed suicide in the last 20 years in India? I mean, you’re talking about, sorry to interrupt there, but you’re talking about unaffordable debts, you’re talking about a, a system that, you know, a predatory system, which, you know, yeah, these farmer this, these farmers that this is the way they feed their, their families, this is the way they send their kids to school. And when there’s predatory lending, then, there they, like literally 300,000 farmers have committed suicide over the past 20 years. And that’s because we’ve allowed, you know, giant companies to basically sell them on GMO stuff, and then go and sue them, if they, you know, don’t have the net, the latest, they carry over seed, or they have these suicide seeds, you’re taking away the rights of themselves to produce and you’re making, yeah, you’re turning it into an absolute commodity, rather than this is their way of life. tying it together also. I mean, in Arabic, we have the same exact thing. In the Palestinian region, we call them Falah (فلاح) . And that is the same as like, a Jatt is like it, you know that those two, it’s their identity. It’s like in Bollywood, you have , you’re watching music videos, and you’re seeing tractors you’re seeing, you know, you’ve seen the man with the beard, you’re seeing, you know, muscular this, that or the other. It’s it’s an identity thing. And in Palestine, same thing. Year after year, it’s focused around olive harvest, you get the entire family around, you pick the olives, you take it to a press, you press the olives, you have olive oil to take to the market. You have olive oil for your family, your friends. Yeah, absolutely. So you’re seeing in India, that sort of the decimation of that character, of that national character in those regions? Yeah, sorry to interrupt.
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 42:34
Yeah. I think what the what the farmers then said, given with these new bills, then in Punjab and Haryana, what they’re really thinking about is, we’re already under such duress. If we’re now having to deal directly with a, you know, huge conglomerate, and supranational multinational conglomerate, be I mean, these are again, like, I mean, these are very intelligent human beings, but they’re not lawyers. They don’t have lawyers. They don’t write laws, these conglomerates and these corporations, these groups, when they’re, you can just see that there’s no parody, how do you create equality in creating a contractual relationship? When on the one side, you have a billionaire, you know, who’s making a mess. Remember, the remind you guys of the staticky in the last few months, Ambani’s wealth has been increasing by around $12 million every hour. So just over the course of our conversation, he’s made 1200 $12 million. Right? How can you have parity in a contractual relationship with somebody like that, so the farmers know that what’s going to happen is, they’re going to wind up further in debt, they’re gonna, they can’t sue — the government’s gotten rid of that reality in the laws. They have to go to a local kind of administrator to sort out any disputes. So there’s no recourse to the law. Again, there was an example given of this. Somebody had said, You know, I went, I went and disputed this, and the guy looked at me, and he looked at him, and he was the this was the representative of the company. And I said, he guaranteed me this price. I didn’t get it. I got, you know, nothing, basically, because the company what the company had said is, we don’t want to buy this, now that we see it. And the representative of the company said there’s a clause in the contract that says that if this if the product doesn’t meet this standard, we won’t pay the price. We don’t want it didn’t meet the standard. So the person who was adjudicating agreed with the company because that’s what the contract said. farmer got nothing, but the farmer had to get in debt in order to get that crop. Right. So you can see how this can just be a vicious cycle for farmers, what they’re going to do is they’re gonna have to, then they have to sell their land to get out of debt, who they’re going to sell the land to yourself to the company, because the company wants the land.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 45:22
Yeah, I was gonna, I’m just Yeah, kind of add on to that. It’s, it’s basically like, like the rails have are being set for you. By the very, I guess, entities that benefit. And those rails take you down this path of essentially, like losing everything. I’d be curious to know, you know, let’s say that let’s just imagine hypothetically, that this all plays out, meaning. These big entities, entities, meaning corporations, and governments, essentially squeeze the land out of out of the farmers. What does that mean for them? Like when I look at it once again, Mike, when I compare against what has happened to let’s say, once again, the Palestinians, where are they now? You know, I think one in three Palestinians is unemployed in the Gaza Strip, it’s upwards of 50%. And they’re basically forced to go to Israeli territories and be day laborers, just just just to make I don’t even know if they’re making ends meet. But I’d be curious to know like a moody, do you have any thoughts on that? Like, what hat? What have you seen happen to generations of farmers who gets squeezed out of their identity of their of their profession? Like what happens? You know, what does that mean for their future generations? from both economics and also who they are? Well, you know, what happens to the identity of people?
Amudi (The Olive Branch Ranch) 46:53
Yeah, sure. I mean, you’re stripping the people of, you know, what they’ve done for generations and generations. And you know, what happened with the Bedouins, when the State of Israel was created, they basically said, you grazing, you grazing your animals, your goats and your sheep. That’s not that’s not conducive to what our new state is going to be doing. And we’re gonna take those rights away. So you’re, you know, you’re seeing people then are reliant on state assistance. And that’s not what they want to do. No one willingly just wants to take a check that barely covers anything. And so do you go ahead and stay at home? So? Yeah, it’s, it’s not a good thing. The government is supposed to protect the rights of, of these farmers, you know, and that this bill clearly does not, and it’s happened time and time again, all around the world. And, you know, there has to be a balance, you know, if it means less choice. So, you know, farmers in India, in India, will, will inevitably, they will be told what they can and can’t grow, they’ll be told what they, what kind of methods to be used, whether that’s good for them or good for their health, good for the land, nobody knows yet to be seen, you’re gonna see no recourse. So, you know, like we were talking about, and they’re not going to be able to say, hey, that, you know, they bring something to market and they’re told no, sorry, this doesn’t meet our standard. And whether that is even true or not, you know, they have no recourse under this new bill. So it’s it’s a very dangerous path. And it would mean consolidation with these, you know, super, super big rich guys, you know, consolidating their powers and squeezing the little guy out of out of it. So yeah, absolutely. I think, given given, given the history, you can’t really trust the government to protect the people, right? Absolutely. Yeah.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 49:12
That makes sense. So were we I think we’ve got about 10 minutes left. I do want to kind of for anybody who’s maybe pausing through this episode listening to in segments, so essentially, reiterating what’s happening in India? We think we’ve seen it, I think we’ve even seen it in other parts of India, we’ve seen what the outcome is we can kind of extrapolate what might happen to these farmers if these bills are not repealed. We’ve seen it in other countries. We’ve seen I think, variations of it in North America, we’ve seen definitely similarities in the Middle Eastn east of which many of those countries including Palestinian territories, were largely formed by, you know, by British frameworks, in fact, I mean, even like when in Palestine, this whole idea of Farmers going to middlemen to then have that brokered out and in that that that model also existed there as well. I think one interesting I don’t know what the term, the right term is Harjeet. But one interesting anecdote I’ve heard is, you know, in Punjab, they have so many farm laborers coming from Bihar , UP, and one of the things I’ve heard is, you know, in Punjab, they’re saying, Hey, you know, if these bills aren’t repealed, we’re going to be going to Bihar to do farm laboring. And so there is a very real, like, witnessing of they’ve seen what’s happening locally, in first person to to other Indians. And I’m sure they’re aware of what has happened in other agrarian communities in the Western world. But I want to know, what are your thoughts on that?
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 50:51
Yeah, so I, there’s something the people who you’re mentioning, there’s, there’s been. So you know, like, in the 90s, India’s economy is on the verge of collapse, basically. Right. And they had to agree to some terms agreed upon by the IMF and the WTO. And so India’s policies aren’t directed necessarily on its own. For one thing, there’s bigger global games happening with India, right. And those changes that had happened in two states up in Bihar have affected agriculture, so negatively that farmers effectively in order to help recuperate, some of the debt had to send their sons. And they’re used either as migrant laborers to the cities like Amudi mentioned, as in the Palestinian example. Um, so there was some we’re going and continue to go. And we saw this mass migration with COVID of these laborers back to their states, the states were UP and Bihar, right. So in the urban centers of megalopolises, there’s farm laborers, farmers who are now laborers. Punjab experienced a movement of some of those farmers as well. And they came to help harvest the crops in Punjab. It was because partly because of those bills, that there was this need, um, again, what’s interesting, what’s really interesting with the protest is that I’m in this kind of peaceful place where kind of India has gathered, India’s poor farmers have gathered, there’s been conversations happening, and farmers have been saying, you know, um, you know, we wouldn’t have had to gone to Punjab or Haryana, if we were able to sustain our livelihoods from our own agricultural produce, we can’t do that because of these deregulatory laws. So again, it speaks to there’s a real example already in India, how these are ineffective. So the question really is, why are these being done? And, again, there’s a lot of suggestion that it’s simply to open up the food market. You know, and this is where we’re guilty to be frank, it’s open up the food market to big corporations largely that have hands here and roots in the West, right. So there’s another version of the green revolution going on. And so India has seen that, so when they were saying that, um, we’re going to be like, those laborers in Bihar, they’re saying, you know, we’re going to be under the same laws, basically, those deregulated laws. And we’ve already seen those migrant migrant laborers come to us now, we’re going to be forced to be doing the same kind of migratory patterns. Um, so there’s something really, really problematic.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 54:08
For sure, yeah, I found that to be super interesting. Um, so as we bring this to an end, I kind of want to summarize, I think all of us support like rewriting those bills. But I want to say that in the same vein, we’re not by any means trying to speak on behalf of farmers. The entire reason why we’re here is because the farmers voices are not being listened to or heard. So if anything, you know, the purpose of this episode is to amplify the messages that they’re already getting on the ground. That’s one thing. The second thing is you know, this isn’t you know, maybe for the bigwigs, you know, private entities, government entities. Money speaks louder to them, possibly And that drives the decisions. But for the farmer, you know, if they were going to do something for money, I just I highly doubt they would choose farming if they’re if if their priority was money. And even Amudi can attest to this, you know, he was before we started recording, he was talking about his own personal experience of setting up shop. In North America, it’s capital intensive, you have to be business savvy. It’s it’s a lot of work. And that work is representative of generations, you know, hundreds of years, if not 1000s of years, depending on the part of the world that you’re in. To which people identify, like their identity is tied to this. This is how they make a living. This is how they feed their communities. If you take this away, you erase their identity and you give them a new identity and that’s not what they want. So with that said, I wanted to check in got a few minutes, I want to make sure each of you each each, you know Vin, Harjit, Amudi, you have a last bit say any last things you want to add. So we’ll start with Vin then you can then you’ll hand off to Harjeet and then Harjeet hand off to Amudi. So then anything you want to add?
Vin (PlanEvents.ca) 56:17
Yeah, I was actually read something pretty interesting today that Google and Facebook have invested, I think, over 10.8 billion into Jio, which is a company that essentially owned by Ambani. And I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I think Google and Facebook, they might like you don’t really see much use of this. on there. And it might there might be some blackouts happening. I don’t know. But I think I think every everyone has to kind of put in an effort and share as much as they can on what’s going on the streets right now. And you know, get the news out there.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 57:15
Agreed before I hand off to Harjeet, I wanted to kind of reiterate, kind of add to what Vin said. I did do the research. So first off, I never put two together actually went to India about three and a half years ago, and I went to Punjab went all over and I remember to get internet people were holding you have these USB things to activate the Wi Fi and then remember they were calling Jio. And now this protest made me look into Ambani and I was like holy crap, Jio is tied, essentially to one of his conglomerates. And yeah, if you look at the investors in Jio, Google and Facebook are I think in the top three or four, there’s at least 10 , Google and Facebook are definitely the top three or four investors in Jio Platform Limited thing from what I recall , Ambani, and Bonnie’s stake is like two thirds of it. And then the remaining third split between Google Facebook, and then a handful of other companies throughout the Middle East and India. So yeah, definitely. And I will say, you know, I’m not a conspiracy theorist. I don’t think any of us are, but I will say for sure. There’s very clear evidence, I’ve seen it firsthand instances where, for example, Instagram, just kind of suppresses the, the the sick hashtags of there will be times where you look for search for that hashtag. And basically, Instagram will give you a message suggesting that essentially, they’re they’re hiding some of the results. They’re just some questionable behavior. So I think it’s really important to spread awareness, have discussions like this educate other people. We’re doing this podcast to build ally ships with other groups, whether they’re farmers in North America, people in the Middle East, Palestinians, and so on. So with that said, I’ll check in , Harjit , do you have any last things you want to add?
Dr. Harjeet Singh Grewal 59:07
Yeah, I just want to, um, I mean, I hope I hope we can talk about that. What you were just speaking about both of you in some more detail in another episodes, I’m not going to jump in there. But what I will say is, um, you know, India is a country that has a lot of resources in terms of intelligent people, and good strong data driven reports. I’ll give you an example to close. We on the ground have been asked the farmers are quite frustrated now and they’ve been saying there’s been this name coming up Swaminathan asked us Swaminathan they say show us Swaminathan show Swaminathan Swaminathan was a committee on farmers October 2006. They published this report. This is again, a long a long train that I had talked about last time. This is another instance. This gives findings and recommendations. And if you look at this in comparison to this is 14 years ago now, in relation to what actually these bills are doing, so the farmers, the key recommendation one is to reduce causes of farmer distress that’s connected to suicide. This is what we’ve talked about our quantity of land quality of water technology, fatigue, access, adequacy, timeliness of institutional credit opportunities for assured and renumerated marketing to be given to the farmers directly the marketing even right land reforms. It says that the land is already in 2006. It’s giving 1992 numbers 54% of the land was owned by the top 10 wealthiest, land owning farmers, only 3% was with the poorest, that’s gotten a lot worse. So, what it talks about is preventing the diversion of prime agricultural land and forest to corporate sector for non agricultural purposes. This is a direct from the report to not allow corporate sector to enter it talks about irrigation creating modernization of irrigation and then trying to get around the the stagnancy in the agro sector by finding new technologies to promote conservation farming. Right. And this is 14 years ago, food security is like as an issue that India is lagging behind its goals. India has a goal had a goal of having its hunger by 2015. This is measured in tons and India hasn’t done anywhere near I won’t get into the numbers, but India’s food has actually lowered since 2006, as food production has increased. So these are these are real concerns. And there’s there’s concrete stuff here. data driven reports that exists in the in the world view and the purview of the Indian government, on increasing competitiveness for farmers is like, again, preventing preventing farmer suicide by getting rid of the middlemen, health insurance and micro finance costs, policies, Social Security nets, aquifer recharge, rainwater conservation and increasing employment. Why is none of this addressed in those new bills? This is only one report, there’s been several like this increasing buyer resources. This is something the farmers are aware of. And they’re aware that this is not being addressed in real terms. There’s something really concrete here in terms of why these bills are being told to the world that they’re in the benefit of the farmers, while they ignore every recommendation by previous reports, and it’s a big question. I think we should follow that as well.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 1:03:33
I was on mute, my bad, but I 100% agree. And I just wanted to kind of add to that, and we’ll do a follow up episode with that analysis, because I actually in preparation for this episode, so there’s the National Crime Records Bureau of India, and they provide a lot of datasets about many crimes of which include suicide. And this is kind of a side note. But when you look at the suicide report, it’s I think this exists I don’t think it should, but there is a separate section. There’s like types of suicides, and there’s not that many, but there’s a dedicated section for farmer suicides. And like we, we should not be in a place where we feel the need to actually create a separate metric, just I mean, we’re there but like, that should not be that severe of an issue. And I do think we can definitely do a follow up kind of dive deep into the existing numbers and do that analysis. But uh, yeah, thank you for sharing that. Amudi any last any last words?
Amudi (The Olive Branch Ranch) 1:04:37
Yeah, I just I’m just a student here, learning as much as I can, and listening to the the professor here and everybody else and then No, but I really appreciate it. It was eye opening to expand on it. And like we said, I’m certainly not speaking for Indian farmers, but I definitely feel their pain. And yeah, definitely just happy that we did we got together and we did this, you know, people are asking me like, hey, why should I? Why should I care about what’s happening in India? Like, why should I care what’s happening to the farmers in India? We don’t we have problems here domestically in the US and it’s like, yeah, sure we do. But, you know, this is a global system that affects everybody. And, you know, it’s, it’s all about, it’s about doing what’s right to you know, we have to use our voices to amplify those voices that are not being amplified and that the big tech is shutting down and, and censoring, so. Yep, I’ll leave it at that. I appreciate everybody’s time. And we’ll have to do this again sometime soon.
Kamran (PlanEvents.ca) 1:05:47
Absolutely. Awesome. Gentlemen, this was awesome. Really appreciate your time. And I’m gonna go ahead and end the recording now.
Amudi (The Olive Branch Ranch) 1:05:57
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