Indian farmers have blocked roads and railway tracks in protest against new legislation, allowing the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices.
The new law will leave the farmers at the mercy of private buyers.
At least 31 farmer organizations joined the call for a complete shutdown in Punjab. Some farmers gathered across several locations to disrupt vehicular movement while the others held protest marches.
On Thursday, farmer unions began a three-day ‘rail roko’ protest at six different locations in the state with 1,000 to 1,500 farmers sitting on the tracks at each protest site.
Large protests were staged in the food-growing states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. On the nationwide shutdown, leading farmers’ organizations held demonstrations in many parts of the country and blocked highways.
Opposition parties and trade unions in Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha and Karnataka have also voiced support for farmers.
Similar protests were staged in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat in western India.
The main opposition Congress party has called the bills black law and pro-corporate, accusing Modi of making farmers slaves of the capitalists.
Police in various states have beefed up security ahead of any possible violence, especially around New Delhi.
Presently, most Indian farmers sell the majority of their corps at government-controlled wholesale markets at the Minimum Support Price. They are perturbed that market forces will eventually dictate prices, and the government will withdraw the support price, leaving farmers without a crucial bargaining chip.
The government denied this allegation but farmers are wary of this legislation.
Akali Dal chief Sukhbir Singh Badal and former Union Minister Harsimrat Kaur led the farmers’ protest in Lambi, Punjab. They called for state chief minister’s intervention into the matter. They demanded an immediate cabinet meeting and passage of an ordinance to declare the state as one market.