The perpetually busy arterial highways that connect most northern Indian towns to New Delhi a city of 29 million people, now pulse to the cries of “Inquilab Zindabad” — “Long live the revolution.” Tens and thousands of farmers have descended upon the city’s borders, choking highways in giant demonstrations against new farming laws that they say will open them to corporate exploitation.
For more than a week, they’ve marched toward the capital on their tractors and trucks like an army, pushing aside concrete police barricades while braving tear gas, batons and water cannons. Now, on the outskirts of New Delhi, they are hunkered down with food and fuel supplies that can last weeks and threatening to besiege the capital if Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government doesn’t meet their demands to abolish the laws reports apnews.com
The protest has been backed by around 15 Opposition parties and several trade unions.
“Modi wants to sell our lands to corporates,” said one of them, Kaljeet Singh, 31, who traveled from Ludhiana city in Punjab, some 310 kilometers (190 miles) north of New Delhi. “He can’t decide for millions of those who for generations have given their blood and sweat to the land they regard as more precious than their lives.”
Anmol Singh, 33, who supports his family of six by farming, said the new laws were part of a larger plan to hand over the farmers’ land to big corporations and make them landless.
Many of the protesting farmers hail from northern Punjab and Haryana, two of the largest agricultural states in India. An overwhelming majority of them are Sikhs. They fear the laws passed in September will lead the government to stop buying produce at minimum guaranteed prices and result in exploitation by corporations who will push down prices. Many activists and farming experts support their demand for a minimum guaranteed price for their crops.
The new rules will also eliminate agents who act as middlemen between the farmers and the government-regulated wholesale markets. Farmers say agents are a vital cog of the farm economy and their main line of credit, providing quick funds for fuel, fertilizers and even loans in case of family emergencies.
The laws have compounded existing resentment from farmers, who often complain of being ignored by the government in their push for better crop prices, additional loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.
The government has argued the laws bring about necessary reform that will allow farmers to market their produce and boost production through private investment. But farmers say they were never consulted.
With nearly 60% of the Indian population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, the growing farmer rebellion has rattled Modi’s administration and allies. His leaders have scrambled to contain the protests.
The government is holding talks with the farmers to persuade them to end their protests, but they have dug in their heels.
Such passions run deep among the protesters who have found social, economic and generational barriers tumbling during the demonstrations.
With several entry points to the national capital blocked produce had been diverted to other cities and prices are falling for produce such as onions and potatoes, but the supply of some products such as pomegranate and sweet lemon which come from Delhi has increased in price as supplies are reduced.
Meanwhile Sopore fruit mandi Sopore in Kashmir has closed to extend support to farmers reports greaterkashmir.com
The fruit mandi remained shut on Tuesday to extend their support to the bharat bandh called by farmers who are seeking the rollback of thre contentious farm laws.
President fruit growers and dealers association of fruit mandi Sopore, Fayaz Ahmad Malik said: “We extend our support to the bandh call of farmers and closed all the activities of all sorts of business today in fruit mandi Sopore in support of the bandh call given by farmers.”
He also appealed to the Central government that in view of the sentiments of farmers the newly framed farm laws should be rolled back immediately.
The farmer groups have called for a shutdown across India today to press for their demands of rollback of pro-market farm laws.