Current Affairs: “Justin Trudeau’s Folly” by Anil Shrivastava ‘Musafir’
The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau made an international buffoon of himself last week by stating that he was concerned about the farmers, most of them from the Sikh-dominated Indian state of Punjab, camped out on the outskirts of Delhi in a protest against farm reforms.
Trudeau made that statement to appease the Sikh MPs in the House of Commons (Lower House of the Canadian Parliament) whose support is crucial for the survival of his coalition government. As a matter of fact, Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh, was instrumental in giving a second term to Trudeau after Trudeau’s Liberal Party failed to secure a majority in the election in 2015.Although the Sikhs make up only 1.3% of the Canadian population (500,000 Sikhs out of 37.6 million Canadians), they have established enclaves where they are in majority. For example, in Woodstock (near Toronto, Ontario) 80% of the inhabitants are Sikhs. Imagine this, there are 18 Sikh MPs in the Lower House of Canada compared to only 13 Sikh MPs in the Indian Lok Sabha (India’s Lower House). Punjabi is the third most spoken language in Canada after English and French.
Unfortunately, unlike the majority of Indian Sikhs, the Canadian Sikhs support Khalistan, a separatist movement that promotes cessation of the Punjab state from India. According to a 2018 Canadian intelligence report Khalistanis were listed as one of the top five terrorist groups in Canada. The same group downed an Air-India plane on June 23, 1985, that claimed the lives of all 329 innocent passengers on board. There were five families from Michigan who were my friends and acquaintances. One little boy played baseball in my son’s team. Trudeau’s government subsequently watered down the claims regarding Khalistani terrorism after assuming his second term as the PM of Canada. That makes him an international criminal not worthy of holding any office of consequence.
The Indian parliament passed Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act, 2020 on September 27, 2020 with all good intentions. The aforesaid act would allow the Indian farmers to trade their agricultural produce to outside agencies bypassing the state laws. This would be financially beneficial to the farmers since they would be able to grow certain cash crops in partnership with big businesses and agricultural trading firms bypassing many local and state fees.
There is a big resistance to this act from some groups. Some are real and some political. Many farmer organizations oppose this, saying it will leave small growers with little bargaining power. Many farmer organizations oppose this, saying it will totally destroy small growers because nearly 85% of India’s poor farmers own less than 5 acres of land and they will find it difficult to directly negotiate with large buyers of farm goods. Without offering an alternative arrangement to small growers, such as private markets or direct-purchase, the new rule does not make much sense to them.
Politically, it is true that the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce Act, 2020 was rushed by the ruling Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) on a voice vote without allowing much discussion on this topic. However, the opposition parties and especially the ruling Shiromani Akali Dal (Badal) and the Congress Parties in the state of Punjab are pandering to the farmers’ fears. The Canadian Khalistanis (militant Sikhs) are taking this opportunity to reignite the separatist movement by the Punjabi Sikhs in India.
Good or bad, this is absolutely an internal matter of India. Mr. Modi’s government is negotiating with the farmers’ organizations to come to an amicable solution. Justin Trudeau has no business in poking his nose in this matter.