Indian police have blocked highways leading to New Delhi as farmers march to the capital to demand more government help. India’s millions of farmers comprise a crucial voting bloc, and ruling parties work hard to keep them on their side.
Indian police blocked roads on Monday to prevent farmers from marching to New Delhi to demand higher crop prices promised in 2021 when hundreds of growers camped out on key highways leading to the country’s capital.
Some government officials are set to meet with farm union leaders on Monday to avert a repetition of the year-long protest, which sought to force the government to scrap farm policies meant to de-regulate massive agricultural markets.
The march comes only months before India’s national elections when Prime Minister Narendra Modi is generally anticipated to win a third term. India’s millions of farmers comprise a crucial voting bloc, and ruling parties work hard to keep them on their side.
Television footage showed farmers on tractors moving into Delhi from the northern Indian breadbasket states of Punjab and Haryana, with barricades such as barbed wire fence and cement blocks erected on the city’s outskirts to stop them. The police also issued orders preventing public gatherings in Delhi.
Farmers have responded to a request from union officials to seek more assistance or guaranteed prices for their goods, as well as to force the government to deliver its commitment to quadruple farmers’ incomes.
“We will move peacefully, and our goal is for the government to listen to our demands,” Sarvan Singh Pandher, general secretary of the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, told news agency ANI.
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Every year, the government publishes support prices for more than 20 crops to serve as a benchmark, but state agencies only purchase rice and wheat at the support level, benefiting just around 6% of farmers who grow those two commodities.
When Modi’s administration removed agricultural regulations in 2021 in response to farmer protests, the government stated that it would form a council of growers and government officials to examine measures to secure support prices for all farm commodities. Farmers criticize the government for being tardy to fulfill its promises.