Indian farmers to continue protests as talks fail

Published January 6, 2021
Farmers sit near their temporary shelter as they participate in a protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms while blocking a highway at Delhi-Haryana state border in Singhu on January 5. — AFP
Farmers sit near their temporary shelter as they participate in a protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms while blocking a highway at Delhi-Haryana state border in Singhu on January 5. — AFP

NEW DELHI: Represen­tatives of the Indian government and protesting farmers have failed again to reach agreement on the farmers’ demand that new agricultural reform laws be repealed.

With the government refusing to revoke the legislation, the farmers pledged to continue blockading key highways linking the capital with the country’s north.

The two sides agreed to meet for more talks on Friday.

“It is up to the government whether it wants to solve the farmers’ problems. We will not end our protests until our demands are met,” said Hannan Mollah, a leader of the farmers.

Tens of thousands of farmers have been blocking the highways for nearly 40 days despite the coronavirus pandemic, rains and an ongoing cold wave.

Farmers fear the government will stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices under the laws and that corporations will then push prices down. The government said it is willing to pledge that guaranteed prices will continue.

The farmers say the laws will lead to the cartelisation and commercialisation of agriculture and make farmers vulnerable to corporate greed.

The farmers have threatened to hold a rally on Jan 26 when India celebrates Republic Day if their demands are not met.

In their last meeting on Dec 30, the two sides reached a consensus on two issues that the government would continue its subsidy of electricity for irrigating farms and that farmers would not be punished for burning crop residues, a cause of air pollution.

Published in Dawn, January 6th, 2021

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