Almost 300,000 farmers from various states are on their way to India’s capital to protest against new agricultural laws they say will severely hurt their incomes, according to two farm groups. About 100 leaders representing farmers have been arrested in Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the Samyukt Kisan Morcha and the All India Kisan Sangharsh Coordination Committee said in a joint statement Thursday. The authorities in several states are trying to stop farmers from marching toward New Delhi, they said.
“We want the three bills to be repealed in toto,” Yogendra Yadav, a member of the coordination committee told a virtual press conference Wednesday. “We don’t subscribe to the view that” they are going to boost earnings of farmers, he said.
Analysts and industry experts have said that a slew of reforms introduced by the government in September have the potential to change the face of Indian agriculture, which has been hampered by low yields and inefficient smallholdings. The new rules make it easier to sell crops in other states, while a rise in production would boost exports and farm incomes, they said.
However, farmers are worried that the new measures will eventually kill the government’s price support regime for crops and leave them at the mercy of big corporations that would control the market.
Central to the reforms is an amendment to the Essential Commodities Act, a 1955 law. Earlier, when prices rose due to higher demand, the law’s price-control measures kicked in, discouraging investment to increase production.
Farmers from Punjab braced water cannons at the state’s border with Haryana as they moved toward New Delhi, the Press Trust of India reported. The Haryana Police blocked the Amritsar-Delhi highway with trucks to stop tractor-trolleys of protesting farmers, the report said.