New Delhi, Feb 13 (EFE).- Thousands of Indian farmers on board trucks and tractors began a massive procession towards the capital, New Delhi, on Tuesday, posing a challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government ahead of an election scheduled this year.
“We tried our best during the meeting yesterday to resolve the issue and avoid a clash with the (central) government,” one of the farmers’ leaders, Sarwan Singh Pandher, told the media on Tuesday from the northern state of Punjab, from where one of the large marches left for the capital.
In addition to Punjab, thousands of farmers are also waiting on the outskirts of the neighboring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, both adjacent to New Delhi, trying to get access to the capital to make the government pay heed to their demands to protect their products from the competition with large companies.
Authorities have placed huge concrete blocks, fences, and spiked barriers on roads to prevent farmers’ vehicles from entering New Delhi.
“They are sending police and using water cannons in each and every village of Haryana. They are torturing farmers in Haryana. It seems that Punjab and Haryana have been turned into international borders,” said Pandher.
The farmers are backed by several farmers’ associations, which are demanding the government enact a law that guarantees Minimum Support Prices (MSP) on products, a government policy created to protect the value of crops in the face of market fluctuations.
This was one of the most contentious topics in the protests carried out by thousands of Indian farmers two years ago.
The farmers set up camp on the outskirts of the capital for nearly 15 months, opposing an agrarian reform that the Indian government was ultimately forced to repeal in November 2021, bowing down to their demands.
In addition, the associations are demanding other benefits for farmers, such as a subsidy of 10,000 rupees (about $120) per month once they turn 60, Pandher said.
Farmer protests have returned sporadically since then, such as last August, when hundreds of farmers marched to the Jantar Mantar protest center in New Delhi to ask the government to fulfill the promises it made about a year ago.
The return of farmers to the streets came just a month before the general elections, which posed a great challenge for Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Modi is looking to secure his third consecutive term in the elections and is a favorite for it. EFE