India farmers press on with protest despite offer to talk

Published November 29, 2020
Protesting farmers on Saturday listen to a speaker as they block a major highway, refusing to move ahead unless they’re allowed to proceed to their place of choice to protest. — AP
Protesting farmers on Saturday listen to a speaker as they block a major highway, refusing to move ahead unless they’re allowed to proceed to their place of choice to protest. — AP

NEW DELHI: Thousands of farmers in and around the Indian capital on Saturday pressed on with their protest against agricultural legislation they said could devastate crop prices, while the government sought talks with their leaders.

Some protesters burned an effigy of Prime Minister Modi and shouted Down with Modi, as they rallied on New Delhi’s border with Haryana state.

The protesting farmers were allowed to enter New Delhi late on Friday after a day of clashes with police, who used tear gas, water cannons and baton charges to push them back.

Television images showed some of them moving into the capital while thousands still remained at the outskirts of the city. The Press Trust of India news agency said more protesters were heading for New Delhi from northern Punjab state.

Many farmers have camped out on highways in Punjab and Haryana states for the last two months to protest the passing of the legislation.

They say the laws could cause the ­government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices and result in their exploitation by corporations that would buy their crops cheaply. They want the laws scrapped.

The government says the legislation brings about much needed reform agriculture that will allow farmers the freedom to market their produce and boost production through private investment.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar said he has invited representatives of the farmers for talks on December 3.

We have talked before and are still ready for talks, Tomar said late Friday. There was no immediate response from the farmers. The protesters said they would not return to their homes until their demands were met.

“We are fighting for our rights. We won’t rest until we reach the capital and force the government to abolish these black laws,” said Majhinder Singh Dhaliwal, one of the leaders.

Opposition parties and some Modi allies have called the laws anti-farmer and pro-corporation.

Farmers have long been seen as the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people. But farmers have also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades.

Once accounting for a third of India’s gross domestic product, they now produce only 15 per cent of gross domestic product, which is valued at $2.9 trillion a year.

Farmers often complain of being ignored and hold frequent protests to demand better crop prices, more loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2020

Now you can follow Dawn Business on Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and Facebook for insights on business, finance and tech from Pakistan and across the world.

Opinion

Editorial

Worsening hunger
Updated 08 Dec, 2022

Worsening hunger

THAT the dollar liquidity crunch has started hurting the import of essential items such as vegetables and raw...
Bannu beheading
Updated 08 Dec, 2022

Bannu beheading

The state must take up the cudgels and neutralise barbarism before it spreads.
Smog misery
08 Dec, 2022

Smog misery

IF 2022 has taught us anything, it is that generations of reckless disregard for Mother Nature has accrued very ...
Disquiet on the western front
Updated 07 Dec, 2022

Disquiet on the western front

IT is very difficult for Pakistan to be delinked from Afghanistan, because of reasons of geography and history.
Fuel from Russia
07 Dec, 2022

Fuel from Russia

THE apparent headway made with Russia for the purchase of its crude oil, petrol and diesel at discounted prices is a...
More women SHOs
07 Dec, 2022

More women SHOs

IT is encouraging to see more employment avenues opening up for women in Pakistan, with an increasing number of...