Delhi turns into a fortress as thousands march to Indian capital
Thousands of farmers, rallying from neighboring states to India’s capital Delhi, are demanding guaranteed prices for their crops.
In 2020, farmers staged a prolonged protest at Delhi’s borders against controversial agricultural reforms, which ended after the government agreed to repeal the laws following a year-long agitation, during which numerous fatalities occurred.
The farmers have resumed their protests, asserting that their primary demands remain unmet.
Delhi police have fortified the city’s borders on three sides to prevent a recurrence of the 2020 blockade, which paralyzed national highways linking Delhi to neighboring states and posed a significant challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s administration.
Despite two rounds of discussions between farm union leaders and federal ministers, a resolution remains elusive. The farmers are advocating for assured floor prices, also referred to as minimum support price (MSP), enabling them to vend most of their produce at government-regulated wholesale markets or mandis.
They are also insisting on the government’s commitment to doubling farmers’ incomes.
The renewed agitation coincides with the forthcoming general elections, where Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) aims for a third term. Farmers wield substantial political influence in India, and political analysts suggest the government will endeavor not to estrange them before the polls.
In a recent six-hour-long meeting, federal ministers and farm union leaders made progress on some issues, such as withdrawing cases against protesters from the 2020 unrest.
However, consensus remains elusive on the MSP. Despite the government’s pledge to establish a committee to explore methods for ensuring support prices for all agricultural produce after repealing the farm laws in 2021, the committee has yet to deliver its findings.
Meanwhile, authorities have implemented stringent measures, including barricades, barbed wire fencing, and cement blocks, to prevent protesters from entering the capital.
Large gatherings have been prohibited in Delhi, particularly at the border points with Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, through which the farmers intend to converge on the capital.
In Haryana, the BJP-led state government has suspended internet services in seven districts until Tuesday.
Over 200 farmer unions are participating in the march. “We will move peacefully and our objective is that the government listens to our demands,” Sarvan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, told the ANI news agency.
Farmers and trade unions have also announced a rural strike on 16 February during which no agricultural activities will be carried out. Shops, markets and offices in all villages will be closed while farmers will block major roads across the country.