Desi Talk – that’s all you need to know 4 VIEWPOINT November 26, 2021 How India’s Farmers Took On Its Most Powerful Political Party O ver the past seven years, Prime Minister Narendra and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party have domi- nated Indian politics. During this time, democracy in the country has undergone a drastic decline. Rights and freedoms have been eroded, with Muslims in particular marginalized from the nation. Today, however, protesting farmers are protecting Indian democracy from further degradation - and showing the world how social justice movements can lead the values and practices of liberal democracy to flourish. On Friday, Modi, in a rare retreat, announced the repeal of three laws that farmers across India have been protesting for more than a year. The three agriculture reform bills, which concern the pric- ing, sale and storage of farm products, were passed by the Indian parliament in September 2020. They were designed to deregulate and privatize India’s agrar- ian economy. The BJP claimed that the reforms would “liberate” farmers from India’s traditional “mandis,” or whole- sale markets, by allowing farmers to sell directly to private corporations. Yet farmers feared that the reforms would collapse the “mandi” system, which guarantees them a minimum support price for products, and thereby permit private players to set lower prices. Such a change could devastate Indian farmers, nearly 85 percent of whom have small farms with less than two hectares (five acres) of land. So how did the farmers manage to take on India’s most powerful political party? The movement emerged nationally on Nov. 26, 2020, with a record-breaking nationwide strike involving an estimated 250 million participants, and a march to Delhi that brought out tens of thousands of peaceful farmers from the northern states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. These protesters encountered a militarized police force armed with batons, tear gas and water cannons, and had to navigate trenches, barbed wire and barricades designed to keep them out of the capital. After two days, they were able to establish protest camps at Delhi’s borders with Tikri, Singhu and Ghazipur. For nearly a year since, some 300,000 people have engaged in a sit-in at these camps. They have also organized non- violent direct actions such as blocking railways, shutting down government buildings and forcing open toll plazas. The BJP government responded to the ongoing protest by calling the partici- pants “terrorists” and casting them as separatists Authorities erected fortified borders around the protest camps and cut off water and electricity. They detained hundreds of protesters. Journalists cover- ing the story were charged with sedition, internet services were shut down in Delhi and Haryana, and Twitter was ordered to block the accounts of news organizations. In response, farmers created an in- clusive democracy at the protest camps. Essential public services, such as schools and medical clinics, have been made available to all, along with arts and music. Communal kitchens have fed thousands of people daily, including migrant workers and the destitute with no connection to the protest. Living, eating and organiz- ing within the camps have helped forge solidarities across caste, gender, religion, class, age and language. And decisions have been made collectively in daily meetings, determining everything from the distribution of hygiene products to the speakers at daily assemblies. In their effort to build more democratic communities and counter the govern- ment’s growing authoritarianism, protest- ers have adopted modes of protest that are rooted in Sikh principles and prac- tices. The movement espouses a radical egalitarianism that promotes inclusion and values workers’ livelihoods. Rural communities throughout Punjab and Haryana have sustained the move- ment. In villages, Sikh temples organize rotating batches of protesters for the camp sites, coordinate supplies for the movement and function as hubs of educa- tion. Villagers share the work of sowing and harvesting with protesting, as some return to villages while others remain at the camps. The future of the protest camps is un- clear. Modi has called on all the protesting farmers to return home, but farmers are steadfast that they will not leave until the three farm laws are formally repealed and a minimum support price for all agricul- tural produce is guaranteed. Farm unions are currently deliberating their next step. The farmers’ protest - like the months- long protest in Delhi’s Shaheen Bagh against the government’s controversial citizenship law in 2019 and 2020 - has created its own internal democratic practices, which helped to actualize the progressive ideals of the Indian constitu- tion. It demonstrates how citizens can use inclusive forms of protest to experiment with alterna- tive visions of democracy. Natasha Behl is an associate pro- fessor at Arizona State University and the author of “Gendered Citizen- ship: Understand- ing Gendered Violence in Demo- cratic India.” -Special To TheWashington Post By Natasha Behl Inflation Is Not A Tide That Lifts All Boats Equally I t’s hard to follow the news without encountering scary-sounding reports about inflation. They’re often based on broad inflation measures like the consumer price index, which has risen 5% or more year over year for six consecutive months since May, the longest such streak since the early 1990s. The implication, if not the explicit message, is that the cost of everything is skyrocketing, but that’s not entirely true. Underneath the headline inflation numbers, there’s a wide variation of price increases. The cost of some things, such as transportation and gas, are rising at a significant rate. Others, such as rent and medical care, are only modestly more expensive. I looked at those components of CPI, as well as food, apparel and electricity, because they have the longest overlapping historical data, back to 1936. I wanted to compare what’s driving inflation today with previous inflationary episodes. What I found is that, contrary to general perception, prices typically don’t rise at the same time or pace, even during bouts of high inflation. In fact, with few exceptions, there has been little to no correlation between the annual inflation rates of the seven components I examined. Price changes of food and clothing appear to move in tandemmost of the time (0.7) and to a lesser extent so do rent, medical care and elec- tricity (0.6). But in general, rising prices in one category don’t signal price movements elsewhere. (A correlation of 1 implies that two variables move perfectly in the same direction, whereas a correlation of negative 1 implies that two variables move perfectly in the opposite direction.) That variation in price movements was evident dur- ing the worst inflationary episodes. When prices surged from 1945 to 1948 afterWorldWar II, the cost of food and clothing rose more than 10% a year while that of gas and electricity barely budged. There was less variation during peak stagflation from 1977 to 1981, but inflation rates for individual components still varied a lot. Gas prices jumped 15% a year while food and clothing rose 9% and 5% a year. That variation is even wider today. Year-over-year changes in transportation costs and gas prices have aver- aged close to 20% over the past six months while rent and medical care have risen by an average of just 1% to 2%. Food, clothing and electricity are closer to the lower end of that range, rising by an average of 4% to 5%. That’s useful to know. For one, it helps focus govern- ments’ response. If the recent spike in inflation is mostly due to higher transportation and energy costs, and to a much lesser extent food and clothing, then policy makers should redouble efforts to restore global supply lines and encourage more energy production in the meantime. Knowing what’s driving headline inflation also helps inform the debate about whether it might be transitory. To the extent higher inflation is mostly due to Covid-19’s grip on the flow of goods, as opposed to services like medical care that are less dependent on supply chains, then price increases should slow as the pandemic wanes. That kind of visibility might even calm inflation fears, which can help price stability by discouraging consumers from binge shopping in anticipation of higher prices. And yes, inflation may still be transitory. Beginning in August 1990, the CPI rose more than 5% year over year for seven consecutive months and then gradually declined to less than 3% several months later, which is roughly the long-term inflation rate in the U.S. Where CPI goes in the coming months will be telling, but for more insight now, look at the numbers behind head- line inflation. Nir Kaissar is a Bloomberg Opin- ion columnist covering the markets. He is the founder of Unison Advisors, an asset management firm. He has worked as a lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell and a consultant at Ernst & Young. -TheWashington Post By Nir Kaissar Photo:Twitter @behl_natasha Photo:Twitter @nirkaissar REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis Farmers celebrate after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that he will repeal the controversial farm laws, at the Ghazipur farmers protest site near Delhi-UP border, India, November 19, 2021. Farmers feed each other sweets and celebrate as they pose for pictures after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced that he will repeal the contro- versial farm laws, at the Ghazipur farmers protest site near Delhi-UP border, India, November 19, 2021