British Columbia

B.C. politicians, local farmers worried about unrest in India's Punjab and Haryana states

B.C politicians and local farmers with roots in India's Punjab and Haryana states are asking for calm between farmers there and the Indian government over new rules that could change the amounts producers are paid for their crops.

Farmers in India are protesting against new laws which could affect grain prices

Parminder Wander, a vegetable farmer in Surrey, wants people in Canada to speak up and support the rights of farmers in his native state of Punjab in India. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

B.C politicians and local farmers with roots in India's Punjab and Haryana states are asking for calm between farmers there and the Indian government over new rules that could change the amounts producers are paid for their crops.

"Everybody has the right for peaceful protest and scenes that I'm seeing ... that right to protest is being muffled," said Surrey-Green Timbers MLA Rachna Singh.

Farmers in India have been protesting since September when new laws were enacted that may result in the government not buying grain at guaranteed prices.

The Indian government is trying to reform agriculture in the country by giving farmers the freedom to market their produce and boost production through private investment.

Some farmers are worried they may earn less and be exploited by corporations.

Protesting farmers shout slogans as they clash with policemen while attempting to move towards Delhi, at the border between Delhi and Haryana state, Friday, Nov. 27, 2020. (Altaf Qadri/The Associated Press)

Protests in the Punjab and Haryana states by farmers have turned at times into clashes between the farmers and police, who have used tear gas, water cannons and baton charges to push them back.

Police officers use water cannon to disperse farmers protesting against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Delhi, India, Nov. 27, 2020. (Anushree Fadnavis/Reuters)

'Strong emotions'

The unrest is being closely watched by many people in B.C. who come from the area and still own property there.

"Their ancestry is from that region.My ancestry is from that region," said Singh. "And most of my constituents, they belong to that sector, the agricultural sector. They come from rural India, rural Punjab and they have strong ties and strong emotions."

Surrey-Newton MP Sukh Dhaliwal called out the Indian government on social media this week to say that he was disturbed by the treatment of Punjabi farmers in India.

"Canada has a long record of speaking out in support of human rights across the globe," he said. "And that is why many caucus members are concerned ... and that's why we are calling for peaceful negotiations and based on ... dialogue."

'We have to support them from here'

People across B.C. are also adding their voices to those speaking out against the Indian government and its treament of farmers from their home states.

"We have to support them from here," said Parminder Wander, who farms vegetables and blueberries in Surrey, but has family in the Punjab and owns land there.

"Farms have general demands but the government of India, they don't want to give them their own benefits."

In India, agriculture supports more than half of the country's 1.3 billion people.

Protests in support of Punjabi farmers in India took place in Prince George on Monday. (Catherine Hansen/CBC)

Rachna Singh says the farming community there needs more respect.

"They comprise [the] major population of India and Punjab. Being the hub of agriculture, they feed most of India. They bring food on a lot of peoples' tables," she said.

NDP MLA Rachna Singh says the farming community makes up the majority of the population in India and deserves respect for providing most of its food. (Doug Kerr/CBC)

With files from Eva Uguen-Csenge

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