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Farmers’ protest: March to restart amid tight security at Delhi’s borders

BBC | 7 March 2024

Farmers’ protest: March to restart amid tight security at Delhi’s borders

Thousands of Indian farmers are set to resume their march to the capital Delhi to demand minimum price guarantees for their crops.

The farmers had suspended their strike at the end of February after a young farmer died during the protest.

To prevent the march, Delhi’s borders are heavily barricaded and police have been deployed.

The farmers’ protests have restarted even as India is just months away from holding general elections.

Farmers are an important voting bloc in the country and analysts say the federal government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi would not want to antagonise them so close to the polls.

When the farmers’ protests first resumed in the beginning of February, the government had held talks with unions to stop them from marching to Delhi from the neighbouring states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Talks with the government broke down at least three times after the authorities could not meet all of their demands.

Apart from assured pricing, the farmers have also demanded pensions for the elderly and asked the government to waive their debts.

The protesters have said the government should double the number of work days under rural employment guarantee scheme from 100 to 200. The farmers also want India to withdraw from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and scrap all free trade agreements.

On Wednesday, as per the call given by two farmers’ unions, farmers from across the country will try to converge in Delhi using public transport including metros and buses. The farmers have also given a call for "rail roko" - trains to be stopped - for four hours on 10 March.

The protesters’ demands are an offshoot of 2020 farmers’ protests which took Delhi by storm. At the time, the farmers were demanding that the government scrap three proposed farm laws that loosened rules around the sale, pricing and storage of farm produce.

Farm unions had said that the proposed rules could put them at a disadvantage by opening the markets for free trade by big companies. After months of protests, the federal government had withdrawn from implementing the proposed rules in November 2021.

While this was seen as a huge victory for farmers, they had withdrawn from the strike only after the government made other promises including setting up of a committee to look into implementation of minimum support price for all crops.

Farmers now say that the government has walked back on the additional promises which were made in 2021.

The protests turned violent in February when police fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, while a 22-year-old farmer died at the Punjab border. State authorities in Punjab had told the BBC that the young man had died of a bullet wound to the head. His family had refused to cremate his body demanding action on police personnel who had allegedly fired at the protesters.

The farmers unions had suspended their protests till the end of February as a mark of respect to the man who had died. It was at his funeral prayers on Sunday that the protesters announced their decision to restart their march to Delhi.

 source: BBC