India farmers intensify protests as deadlock over new farming laws continues

Farmers taking part in a protest march in Delhi-Uttar Pradesh border, India, on Dec 12, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
Local authorities put up barricades to prevent farmers from entering New Delhi in large numbers. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MUMBAI/NEW DELHI (REUTERS) - Tens of thousands of Indian farmers on Sunday (Dec 13) intensified their protests against three new agricultural laws aimed at overhauling food grain procurement and pricing rules by allowing private companies direct access to the vast agrarian sector.

Angry farmers staged demonstrations near New Delhi after rejecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi's assurances that the laws would double farmers' income.

Six rounds of talks between government officials and farmer union leaders have failed to resolve the challenge faced by Mr Modi's government.

"Hundreds of farmers will launch a tractor trolley march to New Delhi to voice our grievances against the new laws," said Mr Kamal Preet Singh Pannu, a leader of Sanyukta Kisan Andolan (United Farmers' Protest), one of 30 groups against the laws.

"Government wants to discredit and crush our movement, but we will continue to protest peacefully," Mr Pannu said.

The local authorities increased security measures, deploying police and putting up barricades to prevent farmers from entering New Delhi in large numbers. Opposition parties and some senior economists have lent support to the protests.

"I've now studied India's new farm Bills & realise they are flawed and will be detrimental to farmers," Dr Kaushik Basu, a former chief economic adviser to the federal government, wrote on Twitter.

"Our agriculture regulation needs change, but the new laws will end up serving corporate interests more than farmers. Hats off to the sensibility & moral strength of India's farmers," Dr Basu said.

The farmers are protesting against the three laws that the government says are meant to overhaul procurement procedures and grant them more options to sell their produce.

Ministers from Mr Modi's government at an industry event on Saturday in New Delhi appealed to leading industrialists and businesses to explain the benefits of the new laws to farmers.

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