Farmers attend a protest during a nationwide strike against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near Delhi. Reuters
Gulf Today Report
India’s government will consider amending reforms as farmers launched a national day of action on Tuesday against reforms deregulating the agriculture sector, upping the stakes after blockading the capital for 10 days.
A government official said on Wednesday that the government is considering amendment in new reforms that have sparked protests by farmers fearing the end of guaranteed crop prices but it will not abandon the plan.
"We are worried, extremely worried. Our children will starve, what could be a bigger worry than this?" farmer Ved Singh told the media ahead of the strike, echoing fears of his peers that large corporations would lower prices and destroy their livelihoods.
Farmers have been demonstrating for two weeks against the deregulation that will allow them to sell produce to buyers beyond government-regulated wholesale markets, where growers are assured a minimum price.
Small growers fear the change, part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s liberalising reforms, will mean the end of price support for staples such as wheat and rice and leave them at the mercy of big business.
Protesters said late Tuesday they would not give in until the laws are repealed in one of the biggest challenges to the Hindu nationalist government since it was re-elected in a landslide in 2019.
"The government is testing our patience but we will not budge," farmer Raminder Singh from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
The government is set to discuss the laws on Wednesday, sources said, with hopes that an offer of amendments to the legislation will end the opposition.
“We’re open to amendments but a complete withdrawal of the laws is just plain impossible,” said a senior government official in the agriculture ministry in New Delhi, who declined to be identified.
Talks between leaders of farmers’ unions and the government officials have failed to break the deadlock with the farmers demanding the complete rollback of the reforms.
The protests kicked off on November 26 when thousands of Farmers marched towards New Delhi, before holding sit-ins numbering tens of thousands on major roads after being denied access to the capital.
Tens of thousands of farmers have camped out on the outskirts of New Delhi for more than two months, blocking key roads and demonstrating against the laws they say will benefit large private buyers at their expense.
“Reforms will help draw investment in agriculture and benefit farmers,” he said at the annual meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry in New Delhi.
Thousands of women joined protests by farmers on the outskirts of Delhi on Monday to mark International Women's Day, demanding the scrapping of new laws that open up agriculture produce markets to private buyers.
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