The political economy driving farm protests -Neelanjan Sircar
The concentration of political and economic power has made democratic contestation challenging. Citizens are finding other methods
Fearing that India’s controversial proposed farm laws will disproportionately benefit a few corporate magnates, farmers have made Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance storefronts and Reliance Jio infrastructure the sites of major protest over the past few months. While Ambani has insisted that his company has no plans to enter corporate farming, his purported political networks and accrual of wealth in the Narendra Modi-era have created a trust deficit between farmers and corporates.
A section of analysts have focused on framing the recent farmer protests solely upon the complexities of farm subsidies and crop diversification and production, the sort of debates that have animated rural-urban conflict over the past few centuries across the world. But what is missed in this simplistic class framing of the recent farmer conflict is the question of whether there is genuine credibility in restructuring markets given India’s political economy.
Moving beyond the narrative of agricultural reform, I wish to describe how the current political moment is informed by apprehensions about economic centralisation and political financing in India and how it transforms the political responsiveness of government.
India is the most centralised large economy in the world. According to the World Inequality Database, the top 1% of the richest Indians controlled 21.4% of the country’s income in 2019, slightly more than Russia (21.3%), the poster boy for economic centralisation, and other major economies such as the United States (18.7%) and China (13.9%). To be clear, this is not only a product of the Modi era, but a steady accumulation of income among India’s richest over the 2000s.
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Hindustan Times, 19 January, 2021, https://www.hindustantimes.com/opinion/the-political-economy-driving-farm-protests-101611058953819-amp.html?fbclid=IwAR3HaMIGVgpvr0bgY3VSvRL3QrUNVx-DmxAmDv2a77afM3IF5cnqoAwaUmA