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Security officers push back protesters supporting farmers’ agitation against agricultural reforms in New Delhi on February 3. Photo: AP

LettersIndia farm law U-turn: sadly, the deaths and violence could have been avoided

  • Readers discuss the lessons in India’s farm laws saga, the detention of Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan and Hong Kong’s wild boar problem
India’s government was wise to repeal the controversial farm laws. Irrespective of the long-term benefits of the three laws touted as agricultural reforms, they were unacceptable to farmers from the outset.

Farmers had been concerned that the new laws could lead eventually to loss of their land. For a farmer, particularly in my state of Punjab, land is wealth, land is pride, land is heritage. Even in arranging a marriage, both parties are keen to know, discreetly, how much land each family owns. Often, land comes first, not love. If a man loses his land, it is almost tantamount to losing his virility.

Farmers have agitated for about a year against the new laws, braving roadblocks, blows from lathis or stout bamboo sticks, and water cannons to make their point. An estimated 600-750 farmers died in the protests. Imagine the plight of their families. Life is hard enough with 10,677 farming workers in India pushed into suicide last year, making up 7 per cent of the national total – one of the highest farmer suicide rates in the world.


India’s Modi announces U-turn on controversial farm laws after more than a year of mass protests

India’s Modi announces U-turn on controversial farm laws after more than a year of mass protests
The government’s rollback of the farm laws was triggered by the state elections coming up in the next few months in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, two big agrarian states. There is also the consideration of the 2024 general election beyond that. Across India, about 68.84 per cent of the population live in villages and engage in agricultural activity. Aggrieved by the new farm laws, a wide swathe of the farming electorate would have voted against the ruling party, denting its chances of returning to power.

There are serious lessons in India’s farm laws saga. Governments should discuss any proposed legislation with the people before enacting them. However powerful or popular a government may be, it should know that reforms have to be sold and marketed. Reforms must have buy-in to be effective.

In India, farmers have died, agricultural production has suffered with workers busy protesting instead of ploughing their land, transport arteries have been snarled during the agitation, and police forced to rain blows on those who grow crops to feed the nation.

All these horrors could have been avoided if consensus had been secured first. It is a serious error to underestimate the power of the masses.

Rajendra Aneja, Mumbai

China should release ‘near death’ Zhang Zhan

The former lawyer of citizen journalist Zhang Zhan said in The Guardian that he believed her detention served as a “warning to others”. Zhang, herself a former lawyer, is facing a four-year prison sentence for speaking out on China’s handling of Covid-19, and is said to be near death and in need of urgent medical care.
In an open letter, citizens and lawyers called on the Chinese authorities to release her into medical care. It said: “Her life is hanging by a thread, we are very worried.”


Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan sentenced to four years in jail for Wuhan coronavirus reports

Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan sentenced to four years in jail for Wuhan coronavirus reports
In China, a prison sentence can in effect be a death sentence, as in the case of Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo. Zhang, who is gravely ill from an intermittent hunger strike, has suffered for long enough. As an act of goodwill, China would do well to drop the charges against her and allow her to be released immediately on medical parole. She does not deserve to die.

Brian Stuckey, Denver

Stop feeding wild boars for a start

I am writing in response to your report, “Hong Kong official defends wild boar cull, despite condemnation of kills as ‘despicable, bloody’” ( November 18). There has been a spike in the numbers and sightings of wild boars wandering in Hong Kong’s urban areas, with some of these animals even hurting residents. I would like to examine why this is happening and offer some suggestions.
Firstly, the fundamental reason that wild boars are appearing in the city centre is that people are feeding them.


Culling of wild boars in Hong Kong stirs up citywide public outcry

Culling of wild boars in Hong Kong stirs up citywide public outcry

There is no doubt that these boars started out looking for their own food in their natural environment. But when hikers bring food into the boars’ natural environment and attempt to feed them in a misguided act of mercy, the animals soon learn to abandon their attempts at feeding themselves and start wandering around places where there may be other people also ready to feed them.

Once they are accustomed to being fed, it is difficult for the boars to go back to their natural environments.

Another contributing factor in the phenomenon is that boars have no natural predator in Hong Kong. In our safe city, these boars are unlikely to meet tigers, lions, leopards or any other predatory animal. With no predator to keep boar numbers down, and with people ready to hand out food to them, it is no wonder that the wild boar population is surging rapidly. They can happily reproduce with no fear.

The culling of wild boars by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department can reduce boar numbers and possibly the chance of boars injuring people. But it cannot tackle the root of the problem.

Packs of wild boars are seen at rubbish collection stations scavenging for food because some rubbish bags are not properly secured. I suggest that the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department more tightly regulate the disposal of rubbish and the hygiene of rubbish collection stations to deter these scavenging wild boars.

All in all, it is understandable that some people have the misconception that feeding the wild boars can help them survive. It is high time for the government to step up publicity about this and lay down tougher laws against the feeding of wild animals.

Natalie Wang, Kwai Chung