India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi has assured farmers that reforms in the agrarian sector were aimed at helping them, as millions of farmers continue their protests against three new laws.
“Reforms will help draw investment in agriculture and benefit farmers,” Modi said in his address at Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi on Saturday.
“The aim of all the government reforms is to make farmers prosperous,” he said, adding that the private sector must help improve the country’s agriculture sector.
Farmers fear that the new legislation will eventually dismantle India’s regulated markets and stop the government from buying wheat and rice at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.
At least 32 farmer unions are actively protesting against the new laws. The unions say the new laws were introduced without consultation and they fear losing earnings and protection over guaranteed prices.
Talks between leaders of the farmers’ unions and government officials have failed to break the deadlock, with the farmers demanding a complete rollback of the new laws.
Despite Modi’s assurance, thousands of farmers are trying to enter New Delhi from neighbouring states to press for the repeal of the new legislation.
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.
Meanwhile, several senior ministers of the Modi administration have branded protesting farmers as ‘anti-national’.
India’s farming provides a livelihood to nearly 70 percent of the country’s 1.3 billion people and accounts for around 15 percent of the USD $2.7 trillion economy.