Indian farmers agitating against new farm laws reject government’s proposal to amend three controversial laws and said they would step up protests.
The farmers seek withdrawal of these laws saying it harms their economic interests while helping big cooperate food retailers.
Farmers have been demonstrating since late last month over reforms enacted in September that loosened rules around the sale, pricing and storage of farm produce, that had protected farmers from an unfettered free market for decades.
“The farmers have rejected the government’s proposals,” Darshan Pal, president of Krantikari Kisan Union, told reporters after the meeting of over 30 farmers’ unions.
Farmers leaders said they would intensify nationwide protests from Saturday that would include boycott of the leaders of Modi’s ruling party, blocking of national highways and picketing at toll plazas.
Expressing their anger towards some large domestic corporations and retailers, including Reliance Industries and Adani Enterprises, farmer leaders said they would boycott the products and services of these companies.
New Farm Laws:
The Narendra Modi government passed three farm bills in September. The laws loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce – something that has protected Indian farmers from the free market for decades.
Most farmers sell the majority of their produce at government-controlled wholesale markets at an assured floor price called the Minimum Support Price (MSP).
Farmers are worried that market forces will eventually dictate prices and that the government will remove MSP, leaving farmers in the lurch.
The government however denies that the reforms, which open the farming sector to private players, will hurt farmers.
The Modi government claims that these reforms are necessary to increase farm incomes and productivity.
Demonstrating since August 9:
Farmers have been demonstrating against the new laws since August 9. Soon after the laws were passed farmers from mostly in the states of Punjab and Haryana began holding local protests.
But on November 25 the agitation took to the next level after they decided to march to the capital Delhi to pressure the Modi-led central government.
During their march they were met by police at the borders of the city. Riot police resorted to use of tear gas and water cannons, dug up roads, and used layers of barricades and sand barriers to stop the protestors.
As many as 500,000 people have reached Delhi or at the borders or are on their way.