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Traffic keeps Indian farmers in spotlight

China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-09-28 09:25
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Indian farmers gather in Ghaziabad on Monday during a nationwide strike as they protest against the central government's agricultural reforms. [SAJJAD HUSSAIN/AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE]

NEW DELHI-Paralyzing traffic jams sprung on the approaches to Delhi on Monday morning as police sought to thwart a call by farmers for a day of protest in the Indian capital as part of their long-running campaign against market-oriented farm laws.

The farmers' action, called "India Shutdown", came on the anniversary of the Parliament's approval of the three laws that farming communities say will bring in changes that hurt their livelihoods.

At a crossing that connects Delhi with the neighboring state of Haryana, traffic was backed up 2 kilometers in the morning as police searched vehicles entering the city. They stopped anyone they believed was a farmer.

The police worked to ensure that the protesting farmers couldn't make it into Delhi to extend a campaign that has lasted 10 months.

The farmers' shutdown call gained the support of major opposition political parties, including the Indian National Congress.

Throughout their protests, thousands of farmers have camped at points around Delhi. The federal government has refused to set aside space in the Indian capital to carry out their protests.

This month, more than 500,000 farmers attended a rally in India's most populous state, Uttar Pradesh. It was the biggest yet in the protest campaign, which aims to step up pressure on the government of Narendra Modi to repeal the laws.

The legislation, introduced in September last year, deregulates the agriculture sector and allows farmers to sell produce to buyers beyond government-regulated wholesale markets, where growers are assured of a minimum price.

Price-support loss

Small farmers say the changes make them vulnerable to competition from big businesses, and that they could eventually lose price support for staples such as wheat and rice.

The government says the reforms mean new opportunities and better prices for farmers.

Farming sustains almost half of India's more than 1.3 billion people and accounts for about 15 percent of the $2.7 trillion economy.

Farmer union leaders had said their protests would not disrupt emergency services.

The protests have been generally peaceful, but police and farmers clashed in New Delhi in January when one protester was killed and more than 80 police officers injured.

Farmers' leader Rakesh Tikait told TV networks on Monday that the hardship for commuters arising from the traffic jams was a result of the hard-headedness of the federal government in not heeding the farmers' demands.

Xinhua - Agencies

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