Bharat Bandh Today: What Are Farmers Demanding, That Didn’t Resolve In 2020 Protest?

Farmers across India are once again protesting for guaranteed crop prices, demanding a host of unmet demands. The Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU), which is part of the Samyukt Kisan Morcha (SKM), has called for a Gramin Bharat Bandh on Friday, February 16. Farmers have been asked to suspend work for a day to press the government for demands, and traders and transporters have also been encouraged to join the strike.

The farmers’ protests began in 2020 when they rode on tractors and trucks from Haryana and Punjab to demand the repeal of three contentious agricultural laws that they believed would hurt their incomes. The protests drew international support and triggered nationwide demonstrations. In 2021, the Modi government repealed these laws, which was widely seen as a victory for the farmers.

However, farmers’ unions claim that the government has failed to make progress on other important demands such as guaranteed crop prices, loan waivers, pensions for farmers, and withdrawal from the World Trade Organization.

The farmers are demanding legal guarantees of a minimum support price (MSP), which acts as a safety net for the farming community. MSP is a key demand that the farmers argue can help protect their margins. Farmers also insist on the government ensuring at least 50 per cent profit over their overall cost of production.

The farmers’ list of demands also includes the withdrawal of cases registered during the last agitation in 2020-21. They want the government to honour its promise to double their incomes, complaining that costs of cultivation have increased over the past few years while incomes have stagnated, making farming a loss-making enterprise.

In 2021, when the Modi government repealed the farm laws, the government promised to set up a panel of growers and government officials to find ways to ensure support prices for all produce. However, farmers accuse the government of going slow in fulfilling that promise. The farmers’ protests are ongoing, and it remains to be seen whether the government will address their demands.