India: Millions of farmers block roads and trains to protest against ‘farmer reforms’

Farmers in India took to the streets to protest against reforms that they say are against their interests.

Individual farmers, trade unions, and opposition parties have blocked motorways and railway tracks in different states.

Most of the farmer protests were concentrated in the states of Punjab and Haryana where farm yields are high. Karnataka state in the south too has seen demonstrations, some of which have led to arrests.

Three bills were brought by Prime Minister Narendra Modi that contain reforms, that he claims are necessary to increase farm incomes and productivity.

The government denies that the reforms, which open the farming sector to private players, will hurt farmers.

Opposition parties and various farmers’ groups, however, say they are “anti-farmer”, and make them vulnerable to market forces. They have called for nation-wide demonstrations to oppose the reforms.

Farm Bills:

The reforms seek to loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce – rules that have protected India’s farmers from the free market for decades.

Most Indian farmers currently sell the majority of their produce at government-controlled wholesale markets or mandis at an assured floor price known as the Minimum Support Price (MSP).

Farmers are worried that market forces will eventually dictate prices, and the government will withdraw the MSP, leaving farmers without a crucial bargaining chip.

The governing Bharatiya Janata Party has denied this, but farmers say there is no guarantee that it won’t happen as finds no mention in the bill.