Farmers vow to secure agrarian reforms from Modi govt

Published February 26, 2024
Indian farmers hold shields at the protest site near Shambhu barrier, a border between East Punjab and Haryana states.—Reuters
Indian farmers hold shields at the protest site near Shambhu barrier, a border between East Punjab and Haryana states.—Reuters

SHAMBHU: Farmers in East Punjab state demanding higher prices for their crops from the national government are relying on young students to ensure the agitation’s momentum does not fizzle out.

Eighteen-year-old Simranjeet Singh Mathada is one of thousands of college students who have been waking up at 3am for almost two weeks to help cook meals at community kitchens, fill tankers with potable water and load tractor trailers with supplies before heading to the protest site some 200km from the capital, New Delhi.

“The protests are now about safeguarding the country’s agrarian economy and farmers of Punjab are determined to bring this reform at all costs,” said Mathada.

Protester demands are centred around guaranteed floor prices which will allow Mathada’s parents and millions of other farmers to sell their produce at fixed rates.

Even as negotiations between farmer unions and government have been underway, protests have sometimes turned violent. On several occasions, scores of farmers have suffered injuries trying to force their way through concrete blocks and barbed wires installed by police to prevent them from marching on the capital.

Some police officials were also injured in these sporadic clashes.

“Our determination to bring about the change helps face the police every day,” said Mathada, who is studying for a degree in Arts.

Published in Dawn, February 26th, 2024

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