Farming and Its crisis
Organisation: People’s Archive of Rural India
Organisation size: Small
Publication date: 20/02/2021
Credit: Parth Nikhil, P Sainath, Vinutha Mallya
Parth Nikhil, 30, is an independent journalist based in Mumbai, India. He has worked with Los Angeles Times for over 4 years as their India Correspondent. He now freelances with them, along with Al Jazeera, Washington Post, People’s Archive of Rural India and several other media outlets.
In 2018, The European Commission honoured Parth with the Lorenzo Natali Media Prize 2018 for my work on the migrant sugarcane cutters. In 2017, he was awarded the prestigious Ramnath Goenka prize for reporting on the farm crisis.
In 2021, he was shortlisted for the Martin Adler Prize at Rory Peck Awards in London.
In September 2020, the union government of India passed three farm laws, which privatised the farm sector. Protests errupted over the laws, for the farm unions and farmers did not want private players and corporations entering the farm sector without government regulations. However, Bihar, one of the Indian states, had made changes similar in nature to the three farm laws in 2006. Therefore, the state of farmers in Bihar became a test case for what the rest of the farmers could expect. This two part series exposed the plight of farmers in Bihar and busted government claims about farm laws
The protests over farm laws lasted a year. Through the year, the media exposed the government’s lies of how the laws would help the farmers.
This project, and several other reports, educated the public about what the laws could mean for the agrarian sector, and helped keep up the pressure on government.
Towards the end of 2021, the government repealed the three farm laws.
The tools, techniques and technologies remained orthodox through this project. It involved a lot of shoe leather journalism of traveling through some of the remotest parts of India and doing in person interviews.
The compelling pictures are taken on a smartphone, which has among the better cameras in India.
What was the hardest part of this project?
The state government of Bihar was cagey about the data. I had to sift through multiple reports, sources and papers to put together this project and explain it to the readers coherently.
The second challenge was to find migrant workers that are on the move, and stick with them until you got the story.
I needed multiple tiring trips to finally conclude the reporting.
What can others learn from this project?
The union government of India made all the efforts to convince Indians that the farm laws were the best thing that could happen to Indian agriculture.
Several journalists even carried such stories, parroting the government line.
But the reality on the ground said something else. A scheme, a law or a program may look good on paper, but it has to work for the stakeholders on the ground.
The government may make tall claims, but they ought to be verified through the ordinary citizens on the ground.