New Delhi, Dec 8 (efe-epa).- Indian farmers launched a general strike across the country on Tuesday to protest against new laws liberalizing the agricultural sector, thus expanding their movement – that started with tens of thousands of people blocking roads to the capital – to a pan national level.
The general strike, the second in the country in less than a month against the policies of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), comes after several inconclusive meetings between farmers’ associations and the Indian government in recent days.
“We had not counted on all the support from all the segments of society that came out spontaneously in all the states,” Avik Saha, the secretary of the AIKSCC union – one of the organizers of the protests that have rocked the northern part of India -, told EFE.
Saha said the call for the strike was “surprisingly successful” especially in the states not ruled by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led BJP.
“And in the states governed by the BJP, like Haryana or Uttar Pradesh, there was shameful repression of the farmers who were trying to express their unhappiness (through the strike),” added the union leader.
While blockades continued at several roads entering New Delhi, the city of Bangalore in the south witnessed several demonstrations, and in other cities such as the financial capital of Mumbai, in the west, several services were affected and some markets remained closed.
The protesters, supported by the opposition, demand the withdrawal of the contentious reforms that seek to deregulate the prices and quantity sold of certain crops, and allow them to negotiate with private firms to market their products, rather than selling their crop in government-regulated wholesale markets.
The government has defended the reforms as necessary and beneficial for farmers.
However, several oppostition parties released a joint statement before the strike, denouncing the new laws and claiming they “threaten India’s food security, destroy Indian agriculture and our farmers, lay the basis for the abolishing of the Minimum Support Price.”
Moreover, these laws “mortgage Indian agriculture and our markets to the caprices of multi-national agri-business corporates and domestic corporates,” the joint statement underlined.
The Aam Aadmi Party, which governs the Indian capital, released a statement that the head of regional government, Arvind Kejriwal, had been placed under house arrest after visiting a group of farmers Monday camped outside New Delhi.
The party claimed that no one was able to enter or leave his house. However, the claim has been denied by the Delhi police, which is controlled by the federal government.
Meanwhile, Home Minister Amit Shah on Tuesday called fora fresh round of talks with the farmers’ unions.
“We are extending courtesy to him by meeting him, but we don’t think we have anything to discuss with the home minister of the country, this is an agricultural issue,” underlined Saha. EFE-EPA