Federal Parliament - India

December 10, 2020

Dr ALY: I recently met with Harry Gill and other community leaders from the WA Punjabi Club, who raised concerns with me about the farmers' protests occurring in India at the moment. As some members may be aware, in India there are currently nationwide farmers' protests happening in response to new agricultural laws in the country. Farmers in India say the new laws will leave them poverty-stricken and at the mercy of corporations and monopolies. The situation is really quite concerning for thousands of Australian citizens, residents and students who have strong ties, family and links with farming communities in India, in particular the Sikh community. Cowan has a large constituency of Australians from the Indian diaspora, who have made and who continue to make such a significant contribution to Australia. I'm particularly proud to represent them here.

The changes that are being introduced in India are particularly significant as the agriculture industry there employs more than 40 per cent of India's workforce. In a country of over 1.3 billion people, it's actually quite hard to fathom how many people this has the potential to impact, but evidence of the scale can be seen in the size of the protests currently in India.

A division having been called in the House of Representatives—

Sitting suspended from 10:44 to 10:50

Dr ALY: As I was saying, in late November, India had the largest protest in history—a nationwide general strike in support of the farmers that involved around 250 million people. Since then, hundreds of thousands of farmers have converged around Delhi to protest against the laws. There are over 500 farmer unions protesting. Transport unions representing over 14 million truck drivers, bus drivers and taxi drivers have come out in support of the farmers, threatening to halt movement of supplies in certain states.

The protests have forced the Indian government to meet with representatives of the farmers, but so far they haven't been able to reach a compromise. In response to these laws, the farmers are asking for a revocation of the farm act, for minimum price floors and for the government to withdraw all the legal cases against protesting farmers. The community representatives that I met with even told me that, in order to discourage farmers from joining the protests, some Indian media outlets have tried to defame the Sikh farmers by labelling them terrorists. I certainly hope and urge that the Australian government use all its diplomatic efforts and means available to support the farmers in India. I hope the Indian government takes these needs in consideration.

In the time left, I'd like to thank Mr Harry Gill, the WA Punjabi Club and the Sikh community in Western Australia for the invaluable contributions that they continue to make to our country.