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Stand with the farmers’ protests in India – Sarbjit Johal, South Asia Solidarity Group

“The farmers’ struggle is continuing. It unites the people of India across castes, religions and regions – women & men, agricultural workers, industrial workers, students. It is the most inspiring workers’ struggle of this century.”

Below is the text of the speech given by Sarbjit Johal of the South Asia Solidarity Group at the recent ‘Arise’ and ‘Tribune’ Socialism, Unity, Internationalism Rally

I would like to thank the organisers, Arise and Tribune, for inviting us to speak on this eve of International Workers Day.

At this moment, we cannot think about India without thinking about the terrible tragedy unfolding there with people dying there,

People have no medical aid, no oxygen, no vaccines, nothing

The government has abdicated all responsibility.

For people who don’t know the background, might be difficult to link the Pandemic to the Farmers protest but in reality it is not that difficult.

The roots are the same.

The Farmers struggle has been about their livelihood – ultimately a life and death struggle against a Hindu supremacist ultra right government underpinned by corporate power. Their struggle was fuelled by their anger against the Modi regime.

The farmers have been Protesting against the farm laws passed by the BJP govt. The farm laws give profit hungry corporates the power to take over the entire agricultural sector. They increase the exploitation of People’s labour. These laws will destroy PUBLIC DS, where economically weaker sections are provided essential commodities like wheat, rice, sugar and kerosene. Remember there is no Public Health Service…

4 The farm laws will force Indian farmers to stop growing food and force them to produce for global agribusiness. Means, India will become a dumping ground for expensive food grains produced in the West.

The farmers movement is resisting the entire takeover of farming land by big businessmen like Mukesh Ambani. Ambani, is hand in glove with Narendra Modi. He is a big donor to the Conservative party and owns the Hamleys, the toyshop, right here in London. This month Ambani bought the iconic country club Stoke Park, you may know it, as its the same place where James Bond movies and the Netflix series: The Crown was filmed.

The Pandemic is an even more terrible example of this nexus between the corporates and Hindu supremacy at the cost of people’s lives.

The BJPs own parliamentary standing committee on health and family welfare had warned of the second wave in November last year. Despite this the Modi’s govt continued to export vaccines, export oxygen and made no arrangements to stockpile essential anti-viral medications.

From 1st May, tomorrow, the govt has said drugs companies can fix their vaccine prices. Adar Poonawala, the CEO of the serum institute will be free to make his ‘super profits’. We know what this means – no vaccines for poorer people!

The government has also decided that vaccine manufacturers will provide 50% to central govt and the rest would be available for sale to States and Private agencies on the Open market with no price controls. But let’s not forget the states don’t have the resources to buy these vaccines.

The government has abdicated responsibility.

It is ordinary people who are helping in this dire situation. The same trade unions which had come together in solidarity are fighting the pandemic. The same activists, some of them with draconian charges hanging over them are looking after those who are struggling to breathe. 

The Pandemic has shown the way we are linked, with the virus knowing no borders. The farmers protest also highlights this with the same corporates funding this most right-wing Tory government.  

That is one reason we as the Left in Britain must support it.

The farmers struggle is continuing. It unites the people of India across castes, religions and regions – women and men, agricultural workers, industrial workers, students. Now farmers are reaching out to migrant workers who, fearing a long lockdown, are fleeing Delhi by droves, they are inviting migrant Workers to come and stay in their own tents and shelters. Stay with us as long as you need to, We are here for you.. It is the most inspiring workers struggle of this century.

South Asia Solidarity Group is urging British MPs to sign a letter to Prime Minister Modi about his handling of the coronavirus crisis in India especially the urgent issue of vaccine pricing. This is a subject of particular relevance for us here in the UK because Britain has a moral responsibility to make the details of the deal between AstraZeneca, the University of Oxford, and the Serum Institute of India (an Indian company which is the world’s largest manufacturer of vaccines) publicly available, and to hold to account companies that are profiteering from the knowledge that was publicly funded in this country. This is a situation which is leading directly to the loss of hundreds of  thousands of Indian lives.

Please do urge your MP to sign this Letter….We also have a petition for all progressive people everywhere to sign urging the Modi govt to prioritise people’s lives and not corporate profits.

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