India World

Indian farmers mark six months of protest against farm laws passed last year

Tens of thousands of farmers in India have observed a “Black Day” across the country to mark six months of their protests against farm laws passed by the Indian government last year.

The farmers held demonstrations, raised black flags and burned effigies of politicians belonging to the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at several places across the country on Wednesday.

In September last year, Modi’s government passed three laws, saying they would collectively provide farmers better marketing options for their produce and break the monopoly of commission agents and government-regulated marketplaces known as “mandis”.

The farmers however say the laws are aimed at providing the private corporations with more control over the vast agriculture sector and will leave them at the mercy of these corporations who will have no legal obligation to pay them the guaranteed price any more.

“We won’t relent until these anti-farmer laws are rolled back,” said Sar Singh, a 40-year-old farmer protesting at Singhu border, the main site of the six-month protest outside the Indian capital, New Delhi.

Singh, who belongs to Tarn Taran Sahib city in the northern state of Punjab, has been protesting at Singhu with his brother since the farmers began their sit-in in late November last year.

He says he is determined to stay until the government is forced to reverse the legislation.

Like Singh, thousands of farmers demanding a rollback of the farm laws have camped at three main highways linking the capital with the neighbouring states of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.

Some of these farmers have set up permanent shelters made of bricks and cement on the highways to deal with the country’s scorching summer.

Earlier this year, Modi’s government had offered to put the farm laws on hold for 18 months, but the farmers rejected the offer, saying they want a complete repeal.

Meanwhile, authorities and health experts have expressed concern over the months-long protests being held amid a ferocious second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.

Most of India’s states are under lockdown for the past few weeks to control the virus, which has claimed more than 300,000 lives, while the country’s overall caseload is now at 27.37 million.

Multiple rounds of talks between the farmers’ unions and the government have failed to reach a breakthrough.