Resisting a “digital green revolution”: agri-logistics, India’s new farm laws and the regional politics of protest
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AbstractRecent laws introduced by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government aim to centralise India’s federal structure, for the goal of a unified (Hindu) national market, and to corporatise its agro-food system at the expense of smallholder farming and small-scale trade. These laws are being challenged by mass mobilisations led by farmers’ unions from northwestern states—once-booming agricultural regions where, in recent decades and in the aftershocks of the Green Revolution, agrarian suicides have become endemic. The roots of this catastrophe are rapid marketisation in the 1960s (installing monocropping dependent on petrochemical inputs, destroying local agroecology) followed by post-1980s neoliberalism (with highly inequitable contract farming, alongside defunding of public infrastructure). Farmers and labourers now face interwoven crises of social reproduction—ecological depletion, precarisation, and chronic indebtedness, with no post-agricultural future in sight. The new laws claim to redress this by employing populist rhetoric against “exploitative middlemen”; in reality, markets are re-regulated in favour of large export-oriented agribusiness, thereby endangering food security, livelihoods and climate. The laws also herald digitalisation in agriculture and retail—further subsuming smallholders into productivist, financialised and outsourced logics. Their promulgation has triggered substantial FDI from global Big Tech, including Facebook and Google, aided by Indian conglomerates with close ties to the BJP built during PM Narendra Modi’s prior tenure as Chief Minister of Gujarat. This paper details the above and concludes by contextualising the ongoing protest movement. We focus on southern Punjab, a region that has suffered acute crises of health and ecology, as well as violent political conflict and state repression. Decades of left-wing rural union activity in this region, fighting debt and dispossession as well as in support of anticaste land struggles, have laid the organisational groundwork for hopeful new political trajectories, including potentials for grassroots red-green coalitions centring women and landless labourers.
CitationSingh, T., Singh, P. & Dhanda, M. (2021) Resisting a “Digital Green Revolution”: Agri-logistics, India’s New Farm Laws and the Regional Politics of Protest, Capitalism Nature Socialism, 32:2, 1-21, DOI: 10.1080/10455752.2021.1936917
PublisherTaylor & Francis
JournalCapitalism, Nature, Socialism
DescriptionThis is an accepted manuscript of an article published by Routledge in Capitalism Nature Socialism, on 27/07/2021, accessible here: https://doi.org/10.1080/10455752.2021.1936917 The accepted version of the publication may differ from the final published version.
Except where otherwise noted, this item's license is described as https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/