Indian farmers to step up protest as talks with govt. fail again

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Protesting Indian farmers vowed to intensify their protest against the new farmers bill as the fifth round of talks between their leaders and government officials on Saturday once again failed to reach a consensus.

For the last ten days, protesting farmers have blocked key highways on the outskirts of the capital Delhi and stuck to the demand for total repeal of the new agriculture laws.

Thousands of farmers are protesting against new agricultural laws that were passed in September which they say could devastate crop prices and reduce their earnings.

The farmers say the laws will lead the government to stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices and result in exploitation by corporations that will push down prices.

During the Saturday talk, protest leaders rejected the government’s offer to amend some contentious provisions of the new farm laws and stuck to the demand for total repeal.

Halfway through the talks, farmer leaders held placards asking the government to answer “yes” or “no” to their demand for a repeal.

The two sides agreed to meet for further discussions on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government insists the reforms will benefit farmers. It says they will allow farmers to market their produce and boost production through private investment. But farmers say they were never consulted.

The farmers are camping along at least five major highways on the outskirts of the capital and have vowed they won’t leave until the government rolls back what they call the “black laws.”

The protesting farmers on Saturday also announced a nationwide strike for Tuesday. They said they would intensify their agitation and occupy toll plazas across the country on the strike day if the government didn’t abolish the laws.

Farmers have been protesting the laws for nearly two months in Punjab and Haryana states. The situation escalated last week when tens of thousands marched to New Delhi, where they clashed with police.

The laws add to already existing resentment from farmers, who often complain of being ignored by the government in their push for better crop prices, additional loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells.

With nearly 60 per cent of the Indian population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods, the growing farmer rebellion has rattled Modi’s administration and allies.

Modi and his leaders have also tried to allay farmers’ fears about the new laws while also dismissing their concerns. Some of his party leaders have called the farmers “misguided” and “anti-national”, a label often given those who criticize Modi or his policies.

Many opposition party leaders, activists and even some allies of Modi’s party have called the laws anti-farmer and expressed support for those protesting. (Source: CNA)

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