Sun, 14 April 2024
The Daily Ittefaq

India: Police fire tear gas as farmers resume march to Delhi

Update : 21 Feb 2024, 14:57

Police fired tear gas on Wednesday at thousands of Indian farmers attempting to march to the capital, New Delhi, with cranes and excavators after failing to reach a deal with the government on crop prices.

Since last week, authorities have kept the farmers — mostly from the northern state of Punjab — at bay by erecting barricades at a highway near the village of Shambhu, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Delhi.

The demonstrators put their protest on hold last week amid talks between government ministers and unions.

However, several rounds of negotiations have failed to reach a breakthrough.

Earlier in the week, farmers' groups rejected a government proposal for five-year contracts and guaranteed support prices for produce such as corn, cotton and pulses.

Farmers stare down riot police 

Police in riot gear lined both sides of the highway on the border of Punjab state and Haryana on Wednesday, where metal spikes and concrete barricades had been set up.

About 10,000 people had gathered at the site, along with some 1,200 tractors and wagons, police in Haryana said.

Television images showed some farmers wearing face masks to protect themselves from the tear gas.

"It is not right that such massive barricades have been placed to stop us," news agency Reuters quoted one of the farmers' leaders, Jagjit Singh Dallewal, as saying.

"We want to march to Delhi peacefully. If not, they should accede to our demands." 

Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda urged the farmers to maintain the peace and rely on government talks to resolve their grievances.

"Through conversation, a solution will surely come out," he told Indian news agency ANI.

What do India's farmers want?

Farmer unions are demanding a law to set a minimum price on all crops, scaling up a government scheme that already exists for staples like rice and wheat.

They also demanded other concessions, including debt relief and universal pensions for farmers aged 60 and above.

The protests come as India prepares for general elections in May. The farmers make up an influential voting bloc and are particularly important for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

The demonstrators are seeking to replicate a previous year-long farmers' siege of highways into Delhi that pressured  Modi's government to repeal a set of farm laws in 2021.

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