Conflicts & War

Thousands of Indian farmers carry out tractor rally towards New Delhi

New Delhi, Jan 7 (efe-epa).- Thousands of Indian farmers on Thursday launched a massive convoy of tractors towards one of the entry points of New Delhi to protest three laws opening agriculture to the free market, warning that this was a “rehearsal” for an unprecedented march to the capital on the upcoming Republic Day on Jan. 26.

Nearly 2,000 tractors took one of the main highways connecting the city with other major routes after a protest call by major farmers’ groups in a show of force after 42 days of continuous protests against the agricultural reforms launched by the government.

All six lanes of the Western Peripheral Expressway on the outskirts of Delhi were occupied by thousands of people moving on tractors, other vehicles and foot, amid a heavy deployment of police guarding the entrance to the capital.

“Farmers, laborers and conscious citizens from all over the country are participating in this campaign, strengthening the demand for the return of three central agricultural laws,” tweeted Yogendra Yadav, a leader of the movement.

The march kicked off a little before noon and concluded peacefully three hours later once the demonstrators reached the entry point to new Delhi.

Hannan Mollah, secretary of the All India Kisan Sabha – one of the major farmers’ groups opposed to the reforms – told EFE that they considered the reforms “anti-farmer.”

Just as the farmers look to complete two months of non-stop protests on the outskirts of Delhi, on Jan. 26 they have decided to celebrate a Republic Day Kisan (farmer) Parade

“We have decided that if there is no settlement, (…) on January 26th the Republic Day of India, after the official parade is over, there will be a parade of farmers and tractors,” Mollah said, hailing the “unprecedented” mobilization of peasants, the largest workforce in the country.

According to Mollah, between Thursday and Jan. 28, the farmers would unveil a plan to intensify protests after repeated talks with the government have failed to break a deadlock.

The tractor rally comes ahead of a fresh round of talks between farmers’ leaders and representatives of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, set to be held on Friday, after seven rounds of failed negotiations.

“The government is inhuman, they don’t care about their citizens. They are delaying, wasting time because they say the farmers will get tired and leave (…) but the farmers are determined to die for this,” the AIKS secretary said.

Although authorities have said they are ready to review the contents of the legislations, Mollah reiterated that the only acceptable solution for the farmers is the complete revocation of the reforms.

The three laws controversial laws seek to deregulate prices and quantity sold of certain commodities deemed essential.

They 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 policies would corporatize Indian agriculture, help large agribusinesses and end state-control over farm markets.

However, the government has defended the reforms as necessary and in favor of farmers, arguing that the producers would be able to negotiate on their own terms. EFE-EPA

igr/ia

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