Indian farmers, protesting three new laws on agriculture that they say threaten their livelihoods, will begin a sit-in near parliament in the center of the capital, New Delhi, in a renewed effort to pressure the government to get rid of the laws.
In the long and growing protests against PM Narendra Modi’s government, tens of thousands of farmers have been camped out on the main highways leading to New Delhi for more than seven months.
As India’s parliamentary season begins this week, some of the protesters tried to march towards the main government district, but were stopped by police just a few kilometers from parliament.
On Thursday (22/7), 200 demonstrators are scheduled to gather at Jantar Mantar, a large Mughal-era observatory in central New Delhi, which is also the site of protests for various purposes.
“Throughout the term of the parliamentary session, 200 farmers will go to Jantar Mantar every day to hold a farmers’ parliament to remind the government of our long overdue demands,” said Balbir Singh Rajewal, a farmer leader.
The parliamentary monsoon session will end in early August. After lengthy negotiations, Delhi police have allowed 200 farmers to gather during the day in Jantar Mantar, but protesters must follow coronavirus-related guidelines issued by the Delhi Disaster Management Authority, a government statement said.
In late January, thousands of angry farmers clashed with police after they drove tractors into security barriers. One demonstrator was killed, and more than 80 police officers were injured across the city.
Farmers say the law benefits large private retailers who, before the new law came into effect, were not allowed to buy agricultural products outside the government-regulated wholesale market.
The government said the law, which was enacted in September 2020, would free farmers from the obligation to sell their products only in designated wholesale markets.
The government believes farmers will benefit if wholesalers, retailers and food processors can buy directly from agricultural producers. [uh/ab]