Farm­ers rally over leg­is­la­tion

Bangkok Post - - ASIA -

NEW DELHI: An­gry farm­ers took to the streets and blocked roads and rail­ways across In­dia yes­ter­day, in­ten­si­fy­ing protests over ma­jor new farm­ing leg­is­la­tion they say will ben­e­fit only big cor­po­rates.

The plight of farm­ers is a ma­jor po­lit­i­cal is­sue in In­dia, with some 70% of ru­ral house­holds de­pend­ing pri­mar­ily on agri­cul­ture and thou­sands of farm­ers killing them­selves in re­cent years be­cause of debt and drought.

The leg­is­la­tion passed by par­lia­ment in chaotic scenes on Sun­day means farm­ers no longer have to sell to state­con­trolled mar­kets at fixed prices, free­ing them to sup­ply to any buyer they choose and get­ting rid of mid­dle­men.

Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi said the leg­is­la­tion would achieve a “com­plete trans­for­ma­tion of the agri­cul­ture sec­tor” and em­power “tens of mil­lions of farm­ers”, while en­cour­ag­ing much­needed in­vest­ment and mod­erni­sa­tion.

But crit­ics say the changes will leave farm­ers at the mercy of large cor­po­ra­tions by tak­ing away their bar­gain­ing power.

Yes­ter­day, hun­dreds of farm­ers from Pun­jab and Haryana states — the big­gest pro­duc­ers of wheat and rice — blocked high­ways and rail­way tracks, shout­ing anti-govern­ment slo­gans.

Im­ages showed pro­test­ers with yel­low and green flags sit­ting on the road­side with plac­ards in Pun­jab state, where many shops and busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments were shut.

In Kar­nataka, farm­ers stopped the en­try of ve­hi­cles on the bor­ders of Ban­ga­lore.

Over 100 farmer unions were tak­ing part, al­though coronaviru­s fears kept some peo­ple away, Bhupin­der Singh Mann, pres­i­dent of the All In­dia Kisan Co­or­di­na­tion Com­mit­tee said.

“The govern­ment is try­ing to ex­ploit the farm­ers, they don’t care about us,” Mr Mann said.

The op­po­si­tion says the govern­ment took ad­van­tage of coronaviru­s by re­duc­ing par­lia­men­tary de­bat­ing time and push­ing through the three bills and other con­tentious leg­is­la­tion with­out proper scru­tiny.

REUTERS

Farm­ers block a na­tional high­way dur­ing a protest against farm bills passed by par­lia­ment in the north­ern state of Pun­jab, In­dia yes­ter­day.

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