Indian farmers threaten to block entry to capital Delhi as protests mount up

Indian farmers threaten to block entry to capital Delhi as protests mount up

HIGHLIGHT

  • Thousands of farmers from India’s agricultural villages in the vicinity of New Delhi have staged protests against a controversial bill.
  • Farmers have turned down the federal government’s efforts to dissuade blockading away entry to the Indian capital.
  • Prices of fresh produce in wholesale markets have already begun to shoot up, while commuters are facing issues to travel to and fro Delhi.
  • Social media footage of the protesting farmers has gone viral. They are reportedly carrying ration or food subsidy for three months to subsist their apparently infinite protest.

KOLKATA (India) — Protests by Indian farmers against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s agrarian reforms have gathered steam, with farmers turning down the federal government’s efforts to dissuade blockading away entry to the Indian capital Delhi.

Thousands of farmers from India’s agricultural villages in the vicinity of New Delhi has staged protests against a controversial bill, that the government argues is to “empower farmers for engaging with processors, wholesalers, aggregators, wholesalers, large retailers, exporters, etc., on a level playing field.”

For three days straight, turban-clad farmers have demonstrated in several entry points to Delhi. They have braved out water cannons and tear gas deployment from the Police.

The Indian states of Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana are the top farming states in the nation.

On Sunday, they turned down the government’s proposal to shift their protests to a particular venue and hold talks with the administration.

Social media footage of the protesting farmers has gone viral. They are reportedly carrying ration or food subsidy for three months to subsist their apparently infinite protest.

Images show farmers, including their family members staying on road in makeshift shelters with arrangements for sleeping and cooking in the chilly November weather.

Earlier on Saturday, India’s Union Home Minister Amit Shah said the government is ready to “deliberate on every problem and demand of the farmers,” but for that, they must keep out from blockading their way to Delhi.

Now, thousands of farmers are threatening to block the five major entry points to the national capital Delhi, namely – Sonipat, Rohtak, Jaipur, Ghaziabad-Hapur, and Mathura.

This comes after the government suggested Burari Park to shift their protest. Farmers worry that the location could be turned into a jail — a concern that has come up after Delhi Police reportedly sought permission from Arvind Kejriwal government to turn stadiums into jails for protesters, NDTV reported.

Entry to Delhi from the neighboring state of Haryana, which is also an agricultural hub, has been blocked, with Delhi police urging commuters to take alternative routes, media reports confirm.

In a statement on Sunday, an umbrella group representing different farmer’s union said: “The government, if serious about addressing the demands of farmers, should stop laying down any conditions and should come straight out with the solution it is offering,” Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, PM Modi on his scheduled radio address called Mann Ki Baat (Talks of the Mind) reiterated that the new bills would bring newer opportunities to the farmers.

“Parliament has recently passed farm reform laws after rigorous brainstorming. These reforms have not only broken shackles of farmers but have also given new rights and opportunities to them,” PM Modi said.

But the agitation continue to run high among the agricultural workers.

Why the bill is problematic?

The bill, essentially allows farmers to sell their produce to buyers other than the federal government with a promise for a minimum stipulated price point.

Ever since India’s independence in 1947, and following the enactment of the Indian Constitution, farmers in the nation’s agrarian economy have enjoyed a basic buyout from the government, fetching them security for their hard-grown produce.

But the bill seeks to introduce more players in the business other than governments and small growers fear their hold could sway in front of the bigger farmers who would make their way to profit with the private wholesalers with better price. And also a potential where the government could gradually abolish wholesale purchase of staples.

The farmer’s bill, although backed by a promise of reform by the government, does bring with it some controversies. Almost half of India’s 1.3 billion people are someway or the other engaged in farming and contributes majorly to the $2.3 trillion economy.

Debt, poor harvest, and other natural causes often affect the vital industry, and this takes an immense toll on the farmers. As much as 28 people dependant on farming died by suicide in 2019 owing to several causes.

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