Indian farmers defiant against reform as Modi tries to calm anger

Indian farmers defiant against reform as Modi tries to calm anger

Protest against newly passed farm bills near Delhi
FILE PHOTO: Farmers sit in a tractor trolley at a site of a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Delhi, India, November 28, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

NEW DELHI: Thousands of Indian farmers, angry over reform of the agriculture sector, held a third day of protests on the outskirts of the capital on Sunday (Nov 29), blocking roads into the city and defying a government appeal to move to a designated site.

The government on Saturday invited farmers' union leaders for talks on new legislation to deregulate agriculture sector but that has not calmed farmers' anger over what many see "anti-farm laws", and their action appeared to be spreading.

"We will stay put here today," said Rakesh Tikait, spokesman of the Bharatiya Kisan Union, one of more than 30 protesting unions, as he and his members blocked a road on the eastern approaches to Delhi.

Protest against newly passed farm bills near Delhi
FILE PHOTO: Farmers attend a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Delhi, India, November 28, 2020. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

The farmers object to legislation introduced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in September that would let farmers sell their produce anywhere, including to big corporate buyers like Walmart, not just at government-regulated wholesale markets where growers are assured of a minimum price.

READ: India farmers press on with protest despite offer to talk

Small growers worry they will be left vulnerable to big business and could eventually lose price support for staples such as wheat and rice.

Modi sought to allay farmers' concerns on Sunday.

"From these reforms, farmers will get new rights and opportunities," he said in his monthly radio address.

But one farm union leader said many protesters were demanding that the government withdraw the laws.

"The farmers' leaders will meet later on Sunday to decide their response to the government," he said, referring to the government's call for talks.

Farmers gather at a site of a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Del
FILE PHOTO: Farmers gather at a site of a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Delhi, India, November 28, 2020. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis/File photo

The protests began with farmers from the northern states of Haryana and Punjab on the outskirts of New Delhi on Friday, when police fired tear gas and water cannon in a bid to disperse them.

But instead farmers from the neighbouring state of Uttar Pradesh joined in over the weekend, blocking roads to the east of the capital.

Media reported protests by farmers in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Kerala on Saturday.

Prices of fresh produce prices at wholesale markets in the city began to tick up and commuters have faced travel disruption.

Source: Reuters/jt

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