Indian farmers’ widows join protests against agri-reforms

18 December, 2020 12:00 AM printer

NEW DELHI: Hundreds of Indian women, including many widows of farmers who were believed to have killed themselves over debt, joined a protest on Wednesday against government reforms that farmers say threaten their livelihoods, reports Reuters.

Farmers have been protesting for nearly a month over the reforms, enacted in September, to deregulate the agriculture sector, allowing farmers to sell to buyers beyond government-regulated wholesale markets. Small farmers fear the changes will mean the end of guaranteed minimum prices for their crops and leave them at the mercy of big retailers.

“If these black laws come, more farmers will go deeper into debt,” said 40-year-old Harshdeep Kaur, a widow from Punjab state, at one protest site on the outskirts of the capital, New Delhi. “More mothers and sisters will become widows

like me.”

Suicide by struggling farmers has been a problem in India for years. Nearly 10,350 farmers and agricultural labourers committed suicide in 2018 - making up almost 8 percent of all suicides in India, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

Kaur said her husband committed suicide three years ago after running up debts of 500,000 rupees (nearly $7,000). As she spoke, she held a passport sized photo of him. Late on Wednesday, a 65-year-old Sikh priest committed suicide at one of the protest sites, said Ramandeep Singh Mann, a farmer from the northern state of Punjab.