Thousands of angry farmers took to the streets and blocked roads and railways across India on Friday, in protest against new farming legislation that would halt government programs that purchase grains at fixed prices, therefore allowing big corporations to dictate market prices, reported Reuters.
Much of the protests are centered in the states of Punjab and Haryana. The Indian government continues to reject the notion the legislation would hurt farmers; nevertheless, after Sunday (Sept. 27), farmers will no longer have the ability to sell certain grains to state-controlled markets, which would allow them to sell to private buyers.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the new farm legislation would “completely transform the agriculture sector” and empower “tens of millions of farmers” while driving much-needed investments and modernization efforts in the industry.
Reuters notes, as soon as next week, farmers will be able to sell grains to institutional buyers and big retailers such as Walmart. The government will still buy rice and wheat at fixed prices.
But none of the assurances from the Modi government have calmed farmers who reside in Punjab and Haryana – India’s northern farm belt. Thousands poured onto the streets Friday, blocking roads and railway tracks, shouting anti-government slogans.
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More than 100 farmer unions took part in the demonstrations. However, many farmers did not socially distance themselves from others nor wear masks, comes when coronavirus cases and deaths are surging in the country.
Bhupinder Singh Mann, the president of the All India Kisan Coordination Committee, told AFP, the “government is trying to exploit the farmers, they don’t care about us.”
Reuters spoke with farmer Karam Singh, who accused the government of disbanding traditional wholesale markets for farm products. Other farmers, and leaders, say the nearly 7,000 regulated wholesale markets where the fixed prices are paid by the government ensure timely payments to growers.