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The Asia-Pacific Report

Sameera Casmod |
22 February 2024 | 10:54 SAST
2 minute read

On Wednesday, protesting Indian farmers paused their march after the government offered to resume negotiations with farmers and allegedly dispersed farmers with iron pellets, tear gas, and water cannons. The farmers, who are demanding higher prices for their produce, have promised to continue protesting until their demands are met.

The protest started on February 13, 2024, and is a continuation of the last protest in 2020–2021, says Foreign Policy Analyst Sanusha Naidu from the Institute for Global Dialogue. The demands made during that period have not been met, leading to intensified dissent among farmers in the country.

Included in farmers’ demands is that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) guarantee a minimum support price (MSP) for their crops and loan waivers.

Speaking to Radio Islam International, Naidu notes that the government offers an MSP to farmers for wheat and rice only, which they buy for public distribution.  But other crops do not receive this price protection, which has led to an overproduction of rice and wheat. This has a negative effect on groundwater levels because rice paddies are particularly water intensive, reports suggest.

“There’s also challenges around how, for example, India’s membership of the WTO, the World Trade Organisation, affects the production of agricultural products in India by international standards, laws, etc., and also acts as a kind of disruptor to that production,” Naidu comments.

Although the government denies it, international human rights groups have criticised the forceful dispersion of protesters and called on the Supreme Court of India to intervene to stop the use of pellet guns. With farmers constituting a significant voting bloc, the outcome of these protests could impact upcoming elections.

Meanwhile, Indonesia faces election challenges as presidential contenders contest Prabowo Subianto’s win, citing voter intimidation and irregularities. On Monday, Ganjar Pranowo, one of the two main presidential competitors, urged a parliamentary inquiry into the election, despite observer missions declaring the election free and fair.

Given Indonesia’s geopolitical importance, the stability of its electoral process is crucial amidst regional dynamics and trade tensions.

“[Indonesia] has a very important geostrategic relevance and geopolitical relevance in terms of its positioning. And it comes at a time where Southeast Asian politics and the tensions around China and the US and the South China Seas and all of that becomes critical, and trade dynamics. I think the stability of Indonesia is critical,” Naidu says.

In Sri Lanka, changes in weather patterns and climate are severely affecting women. Women, predominantly responsible for household livelihoods in the agricultural sector, are facing increased domestic violence because poor weather affects crop yield, thus reducing household income.

“We are beginning to see the impact [climate change] is having on the social aspect of society,” Naidu said.

Listen to the Asia-Pacific Report on Sabaahul Muslim with Moulana Sulaimaan Ravat.


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