Indian farmers to keep marching after rejecting government offer

Farmers demonstrate at Shambhu near the Punjab-Haryana state border over minimum price for their crops.

Farmers demonstrate at Shambhu near the Punjab-Haryana state border over minimum price for their crops. Photo: AFP/Getty

Indian farmers who have been protesting for a week to demand guaranteed crop prices have rejected a proposal from the government, and say they will continue their march to the capital, New Delhi.

The protesting farmers began their march last week, but their efforts to reach the city have been blocked by authorities, who have barricaded highways into the capital to avoid a repeat of the 2021 farmers’ protests, during which they camped in the city’s outskirts for more than a year.

The farmers are seeking a law that would guarantee minimum prices for 23 crops.

Late on Monday night, farm leaders said they refused the government’s offer of a five-year contract for guaranteed prices for five crops, including pulses, corn and cotton.

The government’s proposal made on Sunday was “not in the interest of farmers,” Jagjit Singh Dallewal, one of the leaders of the protest, told the Press Trust of India news agency.

He said the farmers – tens of thousands of whom have been camping out about 200 kilometres from the capital as they waited for the government offer – will resume their march to New Delhi on Wednesday.

“We appeal to the government to either resolve our issues or remove barricades and allow us to proceed to Delhi to protest peacefully,” Dallewal said.

The protests renewed a movement that began more than two years ago, in which tens of thousands of farmers hunkered down on the edges of New Delhi for over a year against agriculture laws that the government ended up repealing.

This time, farmers who rode on tractors from neighbouring Haryana and Punjab states say the government has failed to make progress on other key demands from the previous protests.

At the heart of the latest protests is the demand for guaranteed minimum prices for their produce.

The government protects agricultural producers against sharp falls in farm prices by setting a minimum purchase price for certain essential crops.

The system can apply to 23 crops, but the government usually offers the minimum price only for rice and wheat.

The farmers say guaranteed minimum support price for all 23 crops would stabilise their incomes.

They are also pressing the government to follow through on promises to double their income, waive loans and withdraw legal cases brought against them during the earlier 2021 protests.

Topics: India
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