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Indian farmers vow to continue protests against PM Modi

For days, thousands of Indian farmers have been blocking highways leading into New Delhi, defying police tear gas, water cannon, and baton charges. They have travelled hundreds of kilometres by bus, tractor or on foot to protest against new agricultural laws they say will ruin them.

For days, thousands of Indian farmers have been blocking highways leading into New Delhi, defying police tear gas, water cannon, and baton charges. They have travelled hundreds of kilometres by bus, tractor or on foot to protest against new agricultural laws they say will ruin them.

The laws remove minimum pricing for farm produce and open up India’s agriculture sector to private corporations.

The government says the laws will bring new investment after decades of stagnation.

“We’ve always suspected the government’s intentions because the government has become a slave of the corporates,” Sukhwinder Singh Sabhra, a farmer, said. “They want to turn us into slaves as well.”

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The farmers rejected a government offer of talks on Saturday that came with the condition that protests be moved to a designated area.

“Given that around half of India’s 1.3bn people work in the agriculture sector, there is a lot of support and a lot of sympathy for these farmers,” said Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam, reporting from New Delhi.

“Meanwhile, we have heard from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and he has defended these farm laws, saying that they are in the interest of farmers … But farmers don’t see it that way, they think that these laws will see the removal, the end, of guaranteed minimum prices for their produce.”

The 2020–2021 Indian farmers’ protest is an ongoing protest against three farm acts that were passed by the Parliament of India in September 2020.

Farmer unions and their representatives have demanded that the laws be repealed and have stated that they will not accept a compromise.

Farmer leaders have welcomed the Supreme Court of India’s stay order on the implementation of the farm laws but rejected the committee appointed by the Supreme Court.

Farmer leaders have also rejected a government proposal, dated 21 January 2021, of suspending the laws for 18 months.

 Eleven rounds of talks have taken place between the central government and farmers represented by the farm unions between 14 October 2020 and 22 January 2021; all were inconclusive. On 3 February, farmer leaders warned of escalating the protest to overthrowing the government if the farm laws were not repealed.

The stay order on the implementation of the farm laws remains in effect, and the Supreme Court-appointed committee continues with its tasks related to the farm laws. Six state governments (Kerala, Punjab, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan, Delhi, and West Bengal) have passed resolutions against the farm’s act, and three states (Punjab, Chhattisgarh, and Rajasthan) have tabled counter legislation in their respective state assemblies. None of the counter legislation passed the respective state governors.

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While a section of farmer unions have been protesting, the Indian Government claims some unions have come out in support of the farm laws.

By mid-December, the Supreme Court of India had received a batch of petitions asking for removal blockades created by the protesters around Delhi.

The court also asked the government to put the laws on hold, which they refused. On 4 January 2021, the court registered the first plea filed in favour of the protesting farmers.

Farmers have said they will not listen to the courts if told to back off. Their leaders have also said that staying under the farm laws is not a solution. The government offered some amendments in laws.

On 30 December, the Indian Government agreed to two of the farmers’ demands; excluding farmers from laws curbing stubble burning and dropping amendments to the new Electricity Ordinance.

The Punjab state assembly passed four bills to counter the centers three farm laws. Following this Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh also tabled bills to amend and counter the central laws.

The respective state governors have either returned the bills or have sat on them refusing to give them assent and send it to the President.

Credits: Al Jazeera

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