Members of the local Sikh community are staging a rally Saturday to protest what they say are new anti-farmer laws in the Punjab region of India they fear will destroy the traditional way of life there.
Because farming is a way of life for many Sikhs in the Okanagan with ties to Punjab, they’re rallying here to send support overseas.
According to a report from the BBC, the Indian government passed a pair of bills in September that would open up agricultural production to the free market.
“One of the biggest changes is that farmers will be allowed to sell their produce at a market price directly to private players – agricultural businesses, supermarket chains and online grocers. Most Indian farmers currently sell the majority of their produce at government-controlled wholesale markets or (public markets) at assured floor prices,” the BBC explained in a Sept. 23 article.
“But farmers are mainly concerned that this will eventually lead to the end of wholesale markets and assured prices, leaving them with no back-up option. That is, if they are not satisfied with the price offered by a private buyer, they cannot return to the (public markets) or use it as a bargaining chip during negotiations.
The group organizing Penticton’s rally fears the new rules will eventually force small farmers to sell their land to large corporations.
“Punjab farmers have been farming for many, many generations. Their attachment to their land is nothing less than a child’s attachment to its mother,” the group said in a press release.
“This overtake of land by corporations is going to leave hundreds and thousands farmers and labourers unemployed. Farmers and farm labourers would have to migrate to big cities in search of employment. This drastic shift in farming is going to have an irreversible impact on their culture, music, language and way of life.”
Saturday’s rally will start at the Sikh Temple at 3290 South Main Street at 1 p.m. with a convoy of vehicles heading north on Main Street to Okanagan Lake, then back south along Channel Parkway to Skaha Park, where speeches will follow until 3 p.m.
The public is invited to join any part of the rally.
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