By Arab News
By Sanjay Kumar
Angry farmers on Thursday marched to the Indian parliament and held a parallel Parliament demanding the repeal of three controversial laws they believe will corporatize farm sectors and end the government’s assured price support for produce.
Thousands of farmers from the mostly rural states of Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan have been camping on the outskirts of the capital since November to protest against three laws that were passed in September.
The monsoon session of the Indian parliament is in session and farmers have decided to hold a parallel “farmers parliament” till Aug. 13 when the session comes to an end.
Only 200 farmers were allowed to hold a march on Thursday in the presence of hundreds of police and parliamentary forces, turning the area around parliament into a fortress.
Opposition leaders in parliament also held a protest in support of the agitating farmers.
“Our farmers are sitting at the outskirts of Delhi border but the government is talking to them but indulging in monogue in the name of dialogue,” an opposition leader belonging to Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Manoj Ojha, told the media in the parliament.
“The government is working on the principle of my way or the highway, I want to tell the government that the arrogance of having a brute majority in democracy will destroy you,” Ojha said.
Farmers say that the new laws will hit their incomes and leave them at the mercy of corporations because the legislation clears the way for the unregulated entry of private companies into the farming sector, which provides employment for more than 50 percent of the country’s population.
Farmers fear the laws will usher in the privatization of traditional agricultural markets, leading to market-driven pricing of produce and the elimination of the minimum support prices the government sets each year for certain produce.
In January, thousands of angry farmers drove their tractors into the capital and clashed with police, with one protester killed and 80 injured.
The government has held ten rounds of talks with farmers so far and offered to postpone the implementation of the new laws for 15 months in an effort to reach an agreement. However, the protesters have rejected the offer and continue to demand that the laws be revoked.
The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has called the farmers’ demands “illogical” and said that their protests are motivated by politics.
“The government is always keen to engage but it cannot bow down to illogical demand that goes against the legislation enacted by parliament,” BJP spokesperson, Sudesh Verma, told Arab News.
“Other than those farmers who are agitating due to political reasons, farmers in India are happy with the policy and steps adopted by the government to give a big push to agriculture … and such protest would not lead to fruitful results unless agitated farmers guided by vested interests realize the folly of their demands,” Verma said.
Swaran Singh Pandher, a Panjab-based farmer and leader of the farmers group, the Kisan Majdoor Sangharsh Committee, said that the government was “arrogant.”