Over 200 Signatories From Abroad Demand Repeal of Farm Laws as COVID Ravages India

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The signatories from Canada, the US and elsewhere have also demanded the release of all political prisoners, some of whom have contracted the COVID-19 virus, and free vaccination for all.

New Delhi: More than 200 academics, trade union leaders and activists from Canada, the US and elsewhere have signed a statement supporting the farmers ongoing struggle in India and criticising the Narendra Modi government for prioritising its electoral agenda while disregarding assessments made by experts on the pandemic.

The signatories have demanded an immediate repeal of the farm laws passed in September 2020 so the farmers can protect themselves from COVID-19 and return to their homes. They have also demanded the release of all political prisoners, some of whom have contracted the COVID-19 infection, and free vaccination for all.

They have also urged the government to ensure that the poor and the marginalised do not disproportionately bear the burden of the ferocious second wave.

The statement which is more vocal on the farmers’ issue pointed how the Modi government continues to turn a deaf ear to their demands even as the protests enter sixth month on May 26.

“Farmers rightly fear that these laws will empower corporations to seize their land, jeopardise their livelihood and deepen the agrarian crisis facing the country. Since November 2020, hundreds of thousands of farmers have camped at the borders of the capital New Delhi, in the bitter winter cold and now, the searing heat of summer, despite police tear gas, water cannons and barricades. Several hundred of them, young and old, men and women, have perished due to weather, disease, police violence and traffic accidents,” it said.

It added, “With the current wave of COVID it is feared the government will opportunistically invoke public health [Act] and attempt to demolish the camps, just as it did last year, at the onset of the first wave of this virus, with the massive mobilisation against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) designed to strip many Indians of citizenship.”

“The farmers’ protest has garnered amazing support from all sections of Indian society and outside the country as well. In Canada, city councils such as Vancouver, Victoria, Burnaby, Port Coquitlam, Surrey, Brampton and others, along with many Canadian labour organisations, including Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Federations of Labour, and UNIFOR, have passed resolutions or issued statements in support of the demands of the farmers.”

Full text of the statement with list of signatories is below.

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India is in the grip of a Covid catastrophe caused by criminal inaction on the part of the national Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of Prime Minister Modi.  It chose to prioritize its electoral and ideological agenda and disregard assessments and predictions based on Covid mapping scenarios by experts. This is consistent with the BJP’s governance model since 2014 weakening and decimating every countervailing centre of power be it media, judiciary, opposition political parties, trade unions or human rights groups. These divisive governance practices negatively impact the working poor, the marginalized and oppressed sections of society, while providing huge dividends for their crony capitalists friends.

The current situation was not inevitable, proven by the state of Kerala where proactive measures resulted in them having a surplus of medical oxygen, or that the city of Mumbai chose not to dismantle large-scale temporary medical facilities created during the first wave because it foresaw a second coming.

In this context, we note the on-going struggle of millions of farmers demanding that PM Modi’s government repeal the three farm laws passed in September 2020, without consultation or debate in the midst of the first wave of the Covid pandemic.

This farmers’ movement, the largest and longest non-violent peaceful protest in world history, is now entering an unprecedented sixth month. Farmers rightly fear that these laws will empower corporations to seize their land, jeopardize their livelihood and deepen the agrarian crisis facing the country. Since November 2020, hundreds of thousands of farmers have camped at the borders of the capital New Delhi, in the bitter winter cold and now, the searing heat of summer, despite police tear gas, water cannons and barricades. Several hundred of them, young and old, men and women, have perished due to weather, disease, police violence and traffic accidents.  Many have been injured by vigilantes of the ruling party. Yet the struggle endures and grows. But the Modi government continues to turn a deaf ear to their demands. With the current wave of Covid it is feared the government will opportunistically invoke public health and attempt to demolish the camps, just as it did last year, at the onset of the first wave of this virus, with the massive mobilization against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) designed to strip many Indians of citizenship.  While the farmers know the health risks they face by staying encamped at this time, they remain resolute because it’s a devil’s bargain between threat of covid infection or farm laws that spell death for them.

The farmers’ protest has garnered amazing support from all sections of Indian society and outside the country as well. In Canada, city councils such as Vancouver, Victoria, Burnaby, Port Coquitlam, Surrey, Brampton and others, along with many Canadian labor organizations, including Canadian Labour Congress, Canadian Union of Public Employees, Federations of Labour, and UNIFOR, have passed resolutions or issued statements in support of the demands of the farmers. In the midst of the second wave of the covid pandemic ravaging India, we the undersigned, call on the Indian government to pay heed to the demands of the farmers and to ensure that the poor and the marginalized do not disproportionately bear the burden of the ferocious second wave.  It is important to remember that farmers feed the nation and working people build it.

IMMEDIATELY REPEAL the farm laws passed in September 2020 so the farmers can protect themselves from COVID and return to their homes, secure in the knowledge that the futures for themselves and their families are not jeopardized.

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