Indian farmers have long been protected by government legislation that held control of much of the agricultural trade in India. In the 1960’s, the government introduced a system to farmers to boost crop yield, and make India self-sufficient in food. Farmers were promised minimum-prices on produce, agricultural subsidies, and business from government run wholesale markets. Thus, they did not have to worry about marketing themselves, setting prices, and conducting business deals with buyers.
However, in September 2020, the Indian government passed 3 laws that essentially opened up the market for farmers to sell to private businesses, and not just the government-run markets. This in theory was meant to empower farmers to engage with wholesalers, exporters, and retailers, giving them more freedom to do business with whoever they seemed fit. However, the farmers are skeptical, and do not trust the new legislation. They feel they will be left at the mercy of giant corporations, without guaranteed pricing and protection, and are left exposed to the open market.
The fear comes from a very real place, as the life of an Indian farmer has been particularly harsh in the past decade. Pressures to use new, and very expensive, pesticides and GMO seeds, along with the decline of soil health in some areas of the country due to overfarming, have led farmers into deep debt. Suicide rates have skyrocketed. Furthermore, although the government may have good intentions, much of the population is not educated nor experienced in the business of agriculture, and will not know how to sustain business without the government’s help.
The government is still trying to reform the policies to meet the farmer’s demands today.
Although the current issues are dealing with produce farmers, the problems at hand are still very prominent in the textile industry. This is why organizations like the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) are crucial to ensuring safe, protected, and fair trade practices of textiles. GOTS ensures that every single step in the production process of cotton is inline with the best interest of all humans involved. GOTS bans the use of GMO seeds and pesticides / insecticides to avoid both health and financial dangers, enforces sustainable farming practices to conserve land, and ensures high standards of working conditions and pay for farmers and artisans.
GOTS is a prominent leader in the movement to reform the current textile industry to what it can be, protecting both the world, and the people who live in it. After learning the struggles and fears of the Indian farmers today, we are more proud than ever to bear the GOTS label.