With government’s recent bills claiming to effect far-reaching agricultural reforms, farmers in Punjab and Haryana took to the roads in protest, fearing that their most important lifeline will be taken away from them – the assured procurement of their produce at minimum support prices .

These minimum support prices offer a sense of security for farmers at a time when agriculture offers a precarious livelihood. Ecological unsustainability wrought by the chemical-driven Green Revolution since the 1960s as well as increased competition for Indian farmers from highly state subsidised large farmers in the US and Europe due to the increasing liberalisation of Indian agriculture since 1990s has made Indian agriculture largely unprofitable. Minimum support prices are such a sensitive subject that the controversy prompted a Union cabinet minister from the largely agrarian state of Punjab to resign soon after the protests began.

India’s farmers today are trying to run on a technological treadmill of rising input costs, increasing frequency and virulence of insects and pests along with declining levels of groundwater and soil fertility. This treadmill will not stop unless a paradigm shift is made towards sustainable agriculture. Despite compelling evidence that this is the only path forward, this change is resisted by experts who believe that technology is...

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