The Indian government invited leaders of farmers on Saturday, for talks to discuss their demands regarding a set of agricultural legislations that they said would expose them to exploitation by the private sector.
The government’s offer of talks came after a day of protests and clashes between the farmers and police outside the capital New Delhi.
Agriculture Minister Narendra Tomar said that talks will take place on December 03.
“We have called all the farmers’ organizations on December 3 and we have talked before and are still ready for talks,” Tomar said.
There was no immediate response from the farmers’ representatives. The protesters said they would not return to their homes until their demands were met.
Despite the government’s decision to allow protesters to enter the city on Friday, thousands of farmers continued to demonstrate, blocking at least three highways into Delhi, according to local media.
Television images showed some of them moving to the capital while thousands still remained at the outskirts of the city.
In September, India’s parliament passed three controversial agriculture bills, sparking farmers’ protests across the country.
They say the measure could cause the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices and result in their exploitation by corporations that would buy their crops cheaply.
The government says the laws are needed to reform agriculture by giving farmers the freedom to market their produce and boosting production through private investment.
“We are fighting for our rights. We won’t rest until we reach the capital and force the government to abolish these black laws,” said Majhinder Singh Dhaliwal, a farmer leader.
Opposition parties and some Modi allies have called the laws anti-farmer and pro-corporation.
Farmers have long been seen as the heart and soul of India, where agriculture supports more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people.
They have also seen their economic clout diminish over the last three decades. Once accounting for a third of India’s gross domestic product, they now produce only 15% of the country’s US$2.9 trillion economy.
They often complain of being ignored and hold frequent protests to demand better crop prices, more loan waivers and irrigation systems to guarantee water during dry spells. (Source: Mainichi Japan)