Thousands of Indian farmers celebrate one year of major protests
New Delhi (AFP) – Thousands of jubilant Indian farmers with green and white flags on Friday celebrated the…
New Delhi (AFP) – Thousands of jubilant Indian farmers with green and white flags on Friday celebrated the anniversary of their action by celebrating the victory that forced Prime Minister Narendra Modi to withdraw three agricultural laws that farmers fear will slash their incomes and leave them alone. At the mercy of companies.
Using tractors, jeeps and cars, farmers from neighboring states converged on New Delhi last November on highways on the outskirts of the capital, braving harsh winters, hot summers and the devastating coronavirus.
Farmer groups in the camps, particularly in the Singo, Tekri and Gazipur border points with New Delhi, continue to await the formal withdrawal of laws during the parliament session scheduled to start next week.
They also want government guarantees of guaranteed prices for some staple crops, such as wheat and rice – a system introduced in the 1960s to help India boost its food reserves and prevent shortages, said Rakesh Teket, a senior farmer leader. And demanded the government to form a committee to decide on their demand.
“We will not leave until our other demands are met,” he said. There was no immediate response from the government.
“Modi has accepted defeat,” said Lal Kumar, a 42-year-old farmer. Kumar, with his low income from the farm, said that he was not able to take care of his family properly.
Farmers were worried that the now-withdrawn laws would leave them at the mercy of companies that would have no legal obligation to pay them guaranteed prices.
For the Modi government, the demonstrations have represented the biggest challenge so far. Experts say key state elections in February and March could be a major reason Modi’s reversal.
Farmers make up the most powerful electoral bloc in India, and politicians have long considered it unwise to alienate them.
Next year’s elections will cover Uttar Pradesh, the largest and most populous states of Uttarakhand and Punjab, which Modi’s party hopes to take back or consolidate his rule. The three states have a large number of farmers, especially the Punjab.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janati Party (BJP) is taking charge in Uttar Pradesh, but it is under enormous pressure with its response to the pandemic and a faltering economy. If farmers abandon his party, it will not only slash the state government’s prospects for a second term, it will also dent his chances of winning a landslide majority in the 2024 national election.
Over the past year, dozens of farmers have died from suicide, bad weather and COVID-19 during internationally supported demonstrations.
The protest was largely peaceful. However, violence erupted on January 26 when thousands of farmers stormed and briefly took over the historic Red Fort in New Delhi and hoisted the religious Sikh flag. Most of them are members of the Sikh minority.
At least one protester died, and several were injured, as well as more than 390 police officers.
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