'Even on MSP, but Issues Vary’: As Farmers Protest Globally, India Stands Out

Protests are taking place across European countries, but the brutal police action in India stands out distinctly.

5 min read
Hindi Female

Farmer protests are gripping several countries. India is witnessing its second round of protests by the farmers, which has already led to deaths and serious injuries in standoffs with the police.

There are continuous protests across 12 countries in Europe where farmers have rolled out tractors through capital cities, burnt bales and manure, and blocked highways. But there has been no report of injuries or deaths caused by the police unlike the reports from the Indian farmers’ protests.

Unlike the situation in India where farmers are being cordoned off using metal barriers and showered with pellet gun bullets and tear gas, farmers across Europe are storming their capitals in tractors and burning tyres near government buildings.

World Over, Farmers Are Revolting Against Government Policies

France has been seeing farmer protests for a while now. During the weekend, a group of French farmers stormed the 60th International Agriculture Fair in Paris ahead of President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the venue.

It is a major event in France, which hosts around 600,000 visitors over nine days. It is known to be a political event, where presidents and their opponents engage with the public under intense media scrutiny.

There were some clashes with the lines of French CRS riot police who tried to contain the protestors who were shouting, "This is our home” and booing Macron when he arrived at the venue, even though Macron has said he is on the side of the farmers.

Last week in Greece, farmers took brightly coloured tractors and parked them outside the country's parliament, horns blaring, as thousands of farmers, angry at high production costs, protested in Athens. A banner read: "Without us, you don’t eat.” Some farmers carried mock coffins and funeral garlands as symbols of their plight. They have spent weeks staging sporadic blockades along highways and in rural towns.

In Spain, hundreds of farmers drove their tractors into central Madrid last week as part of ongoing protests against the European Union and local farming policies and to demand measures to alleviate production cost hikes.

The protest was the biggest to take place in the Spanish capital after more than two weeks of daily protests across the country. The farmers rang cowbells and beat drums. Many of the tractors had Spanish flags on them and some farmers carried banners reading, "There is no life without farming,” and "Farmers in extinction.”


What Separates Protests in India From Elsewhere

Similar protests are taking place, some in coordination across a dozen European countries, but the brutal police action seen in India stands out distinctly.

It led to a question by Indian-origin Labour MP and Shadow Minister for Exports Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi in the UK Parliament regarding the killing of 21-year-old farmer Shubhkaran Singh. Representing Slough, the MP said his constituents, which include a high number of Sikhs, had written to him expressing their concerns and pointed out that social media platform X "admitted to being compelled against their wishes to take down legitimate posts and accounts of activists” about the protests, adding "the freedom of expression and the safety of protestors and their human rights must be protected”.

In response, Leader of the House Penny Mordaunt described Singh’s killing as a "very serious situation” and that the British government supports the right to protest. "I shall make sure that the Foreign Office has heard his [Dhesi’s] concerns and ask the relevant minister to get in touch with his office,” she told the House.

On Monday, Brussels was under siege when over 900 tractors drove to the headquarters of the European Commission as agricultural ministers from EU countries met to discuss the crisis in the farming sector. Farmers set fire to piles of tyres, sprayed manure on police, jammed parts of the city, and destroyed and overran police barriers to demand action on cheap supermarket prices and free trade deals.

Riot police fired water cannons at protesters throwing bottles and eggs and doused the fires, which left a stench across the city.


Low Food Prices Add to Farmers' Woes

Protesting farmers in every country have their issues.

Farmers in the UK are unhappy with low supermarket prices and cheap food imports from post-Brexit trade deals. Inspired by the French protests along with the others across the Channel, demonstrations, most notably from farmers in Wales and Southern England, have sprung up.

They began with a go-slow protest that caused traffic jams around the Port of Dover but are planning for more French-style protests with tractors.

Andrew Gibson, a farmer from Kent, has been central in organising the protests and promised to have further protests, while calling for more support.

Speaking to The Quint, he said, "It needs to be a national effort because it’s not all about us; it’s about the entire industry which is on its knees. We are just getting hammered by the supermarkets, by the government, by post-Brexit trade deals, by imports of cheap rubbish. We are getting it from everywhere.”

Activists have appealed to the British public: “What we ask is that you consider why it is cheaper. How can food from the other side of the world be cheaper? What chemicals are being used that are banned in the UK?”

When asked about the Indian farmers’ protests, Gibson said he has been reading about it on social media and was "appalled” by the death and police action. A spokesperson of the National Farmers’ Union (NFU), without specifically mentioning India said, “We share farmers’ concerns and frustration.”


MSP: A Global Issue

Issues surrounding European farmers are country-specific, but the common thread is EU farm policy and red tape.

Farmers are complaining of low prices and high costs, cheap imports and constraints from the EU's Green Deal initiative for climate change They are urging the EU to cut red tape and drop some changes to its Common Agriculture Policy (CAP).

Responding to the weeks of protests across Europe, the EU has weakened some parts of its flagship Green Deal environmental policies, scrapping a goal to cut farming emissions from its 2040 climate roadmap.

However, at the Brussels protest, Morgan Ody, General Coordinator of farming organisation La Via Campesina, called on the EU to set up Minimum Support Prices (MSP) and exit free trade agreements that enable cheaper foreign produce.

She has been quoted saying that for most farmers, "It's about income. It's about the fact that we are poor, and that we want to make a decent living."

Clearly, MSP is a global issue and farmers across countries are suffering and it is time they are heard.

(Nabanita Sircar is a senior journalist based in London. She tweets at @sircarnabanita. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.) 

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

Read Latest News and Breaking News at The Quint, browse for more from opinion

Speaking truth to power requires allies like you.
Become a Member
3 months
12 months
12 months
Check Member Benefits
Read More