Conflicts & War

Indian farmers refuse to end protests against Modi’s new farm laws

New Delhi, Dec 2 (efe-epa).- Thousands of angry farmers on Wednesday vowed to continue blocking highways to New Delhi in protest against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pro-market agricultural reforms that have triggered fears of contract farming and exploitation by private business houses.

The protesters, who have laid a siege by blocking the main arteries into the Indian capital, on which tens of thousands of vehicles ply every day, asked the federal government to call a special parliament session to repeal the new farm laws.

Darshan Pal, one of the peasant leaders, told reporters in New Delhi that they would continue their agitation until the government repealed the three farm laws which the parliament approved in September.

“The central government should call a special session of parliament to repeal the three farm laws,” he said.

Another farmer leader Gurnam Singh Chaduni threatened that they would “block other roads of Delhi if the government does not withdraw the controversial laws.”

On Wednesday, huge contingents of police and paramilitary forces in riot gears and carrying assault rifles stood firm on a Delhi border that was closed amid fears that the protesters would march into the capital through one of its satellite towns.

The protesting farmers received backing from an apex association of transporters that threatened to halt the movement of essential goods across the country if the demands of the farmers were not met.

“We will shut all our operations across north India from Dec 8 onwards. If the government still does not agree to the demands of the protesting farmers, then we will call for a nationwide strike and stop all our vehicles,” the All-India Motor Transport Congress – which claims to represent about 10 million truckers – said in a statement.

The farmers began the sit-in last week after arriving on the borders of the national capital in tractors and trailers with many of them making long-distance journeys to block roads to New Delhi and put pressure on the Modi government and force it into withdrawing the agricultural policies.

The government opened talks with the protesters on Tuesday to resolve the standoff.

The talks ended inconclusively as the government refused to repeal the controversial laws, which seek to deregulate prices and quantity sold of certain commodities deemed essential.

Protest organizers allege that the government has been trying to divide peasant unions.

The new laws also permit and facilitate contract farming, and allow private markets to function outside the physical boundaries of the government-regulated wholesale farm markets.

Peasants fear that the Modi government’s policy would corporatize Indian agriculture and end state-control over farm markets.

The government has defended the laws as a way to remove middlemen interference and help farmers access a broader market with competitive pricing.

The protesters have threatened to carry on with the sit-in for months as they have set up roadside community kitchens to serve food to the participants. EFE-EPA


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