Indian farmers to mark 100th day of protests with major road blockade


Farmers protesting against India’s new agricultural reform laws to block a major highway outside Delhi on Saturday, 100th day of their campaign, and “put a moral pressure” on the government to accede to their demands.

Since November of last year, thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of Delhi, demanding Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government repeal three farm laws that open up the country’s agriculture markets to private companies.

The protesters, who are mostly from the northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, says the new law is anti-farmer and will leave them vulnerable and at the mercy of private corporations.

Union leaders said on Friday that they plan to stop all traffic on the six-lane Western Peripheral Expressway that forms a ring outside New Delhi for up to five hours.

“We believe that after these 100 days, our movement will put a moral pressure on the government to accede to our demands, because the weather will also worsen,” said Darshan Pal, spokesperson for the farmer unions’ coalition Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), or United Farmers’ Front.

“It will weaken the government, which will have to sit down with us to talk again.”

The government says the reforms will bring investment to the antiquated agriculture markets, and that new entrants would operate alongside government-regulated market yards, where farmers are assured of a minimum price for their produce.

Several rounds of talks between the government and farm leaders have failed and the movement has gained widespread support, including from international celebrities, posing one of the biggest challenges to Modi since he took power in 2014.

As the harvesting season begins this month, Pal said neighbours and friends back in the villages would help tend to farms while he and other farmers carry on the protests.

The capital typically has harsh summers with temperatures rising up to 45 degrees Celsius, but Pal said that will not hinder the movement.

“The laws are like a death warrant to us,” he said. “We are prepared for the long haul.” (Source: CNA)