Business & Economy

Indian farmers continue protests against contentious agriculture reforms

Patna/New Delhi, Sep 28 (efe-epa).- Farmers protests continued in different parts of India on Monday against controversial new agriculture laws that allow big retailers to procure farm products directly from growers.

A tractor was set on fire in front of the iconic India Gate monument in New Delhi early morning, while protests continued in other northern states like Punjab. The southern state of Karnataka also witnessed demonstrations in several parts.

The tractor burning incident, involving around “15 to 20 persons” in the capital, occurred around 7.15 am local time in the central part of the city, the Delhi police said in a statement to the media.

“Five persons have been detained and one vehicle has been impounded. Affiliation of these persons is being verified,” the police said, adding that “appropriate legal actions” had been initiated against them.

Last week, the parliament passed a series of agriculture laws amid strong opposition from the opposition parties, farmers unions and even sections within the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister Narendra’s Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

Protests erupted across the country in opposition to the measures, to which President Ram Nath Kovind gave his formal assent on Sunday, bringing them into effect.

The three farm laws seek to deregulate prices and quantity sold of certain commodities deemed essential, permit and facilitate contract farming, and allow private markets to function outside the physical boundaries of the government-regulated wholesale markets, also called mandis.

As per the earlier act, farmers were required to sell their produce at the Agriculture Produce Market Committees’ (APMC) mandis. The middlemen would help farmers sell crops to either the state-run company or private players.

The government has termed these changes as “historic” and claimed they would benefit farmers by helping them get better prices through a more open and free market, and better integrate themselves into the supply chain.

Farmers fear that once private markets are set up, the APMC will have few buyers, and will result in the gradual erosion of the government’s Minimum Support Price (MSP) for purchasing crops, leaving producers without bargaining power for selling their goods.

Although Modi last week had assured farmers that “the MSP system will continue as earlier” and the government would continue to purchase crops, farmers are concerned about the absence of this guarantee in the text of the legislation.

That has led to concerns that the current legal changes would serve as a precursor for the eventual deregulation and privatization of the farming sector that could leave peasants at the hands of private players, without government safeguards on price and procurement of goods.

Besides farmers and peasant unions, opposition parties too have joined the protests and called for striking down the new legislations.

On Monday, the Chief Minister of the northwestern state of Rajashtan, Ashok Gehlot – who is from the opposition Congress party – along with state Congress chief Govind Singh Dotasra, handed over a memorandum addressed to President Kovind, requesting the current laws to be revoked and amendments be made to them.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, also of the Congress party, meanwhile, held a sit-in protest at Khatkar Kalan village, and expressed his desire to move the Supreme Court against the new laws.

Recently, peasant leader and Joint Secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha – a peasants’ front affiliated to Left-wing parties – Vijoo Krishnan had told EFE that these protests were the “beginning of the movement,” which would continue until the new measures were revoked. EFE-EPA


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