Indian police blocked roads on Monday to stop farmers marching on New Delhi to push for better crop prices promised in 2021, as thousands of farmers camped out on major highways leading to the country’s capital.
Some government ministers are expected to meet farm union leaders on Monday to avoid a repeat of the year-long protest, which aimed to force the government to scrap farm laws aimed at deregulating huge farm markets.
The march comes just months before India’s national elections, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is widely expected to win a third term.
India’s millions of farmers form a powerful voting bloc and ruling parties are trying to keep the farmers on their side.
Television footage showed farmers with tractors driving towards Delhi from the northern Indian states of Punjab and Haryana, and barriers such as barbed wire and concrete blocks placed on the city’s edges to stop them. Police also issued orders banning public gatherings in Delhi.
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The farmers walked out following calls from union leaders to demand higher support or guaranteed prices for their produce and are pressing the government to keep its promise to double farmers’ income.
“We will move peacefully and our aim is for the government to listen to our demands,” Sharwan Singh Padher, general secretary of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, told news agency ANI.
The government announces support prices for more than 20 crops each year to set a benchmark, but state agencies only buy rice and wheat at the support level, which benefits only about 6 percent of farmers who raise these two crops.
In 2021, when the Modi administration scrapped farm laws after farmers protested, the government said it would set up a group of growers and government officials to find ways to ensure support prices for all farm produce.
Farmers accuse the government of moving slowly on this promise.
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