Farmers in India went on a nation-wide strike against the government over new farm laws.
The strikes followed after three rounds of inconclusive talks between the two sides over laws that farmers say are against their interests.
Another round of talks is due on Wednesday.
At least 15 opposition parties backed the agitation. Tens of thousands of farmers have laid siege to capital Delhi for the last 12 days, choking almost all the entry points. There is also heavy police deployment along border checkpoints.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said the reforms, which allow private players a greater role in the farming sector, will not hurt farmers’ incomes.
But farmers are unconvinced. In recent weeks, thousands of them marched upon Delhi, in a convoy of tractors and on foot. They were met at the border by barricades and clashes broke out when police and paramilitary troops tried to stop them from entering the capital.
Although they were later allowed to enter the city, thousands of them are still at the borders, vowing not to leave until the government rolls back the reforms. The protest sites have since turned into camps, with entire families cooking and sleeping in the open.
Most of the protesting farmers are from the northern states of Punjab and Haryana.
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.
Farmers say they will continue to protest until the government rolls back the reforms.