On Friday, India’s Minister of Agriculture defended new agricultural reform laws in parliament, dampening expectations of a swift settlement with tens of thousands of farmers who have been seeking their repeal by blocking for more than two months three highways linking the capital to northern India.
No new bid was made by Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar to revive frozen talks with farmers, who claim the law would devastate their earnings by putting an end to guaranteed wheat and rice prices and pushing them to sell at lower prices to powerful companies.
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Through setting up warehouses where farmers can store crops and sell them when markets are favourable, Singh said the laws would contribute to more private investment in agriculture and increase earnings.
On January 26, India’s Republic Day, the deadlock turned violent when thousands of farmers riding tractors stormed India’s historic Red Fort and unfurled the flag of the protest-led minority Sikh party.
Farmers and government forces clashed, leaving one activist dead and about 400 police officers wounded.
Farmers intend on blocking highways across the nation for three hours on Saturday to attract attention to their cause. They claim that once the laws are overturned, they will not end their marches.
Opposition parties, including Congressional Party Anand Sharma and Bahujan Samaj Party Satish Mishra, have accused the government of breaching farmers’ human rights by disconnecting electricity and water sources from demonstration sites and cutting internet connectivity.
They also objected to the sharp rise in security by the authorities at the three major sites of protest outside the New Delhi border, aimed at keeping farmers from entering the city.
By wrongly alleging that their land will be taken over by big firms under contract farming rules, Tomar accused the opposition parties of inciting the farmers.