India Police Used Tear Gas on Farmers Demanding Higher Crop Prices

In an effort to put pressure on the government to keep a 2021 pledge to pay more for crops, Indian police used tear gas on hundreds of farmers and their supporters on Tuesday during a protest march towards New Delhi.

Months before the country’s elections, in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is vying for a third term and farmers are expected to represent a significant voting bloc, the march is the most recent in a string of rallies of a similar nature that started over two years ago.

After discussions between ministers and agricultural unions failed to yield promises to give minimum prices for a variety of commodities, farmers had left the south and gone for Delhi the next day.

“The government has not been able to make a strong decision on anything … We thought that giving time is not suitable now,” Sarwan Singh Pandher, the general secretary of Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee (KMSC), told ANI news agency.

Hundreds of farmers and their supporters were seen mobilising on foot and in large convoys of tractors in many parts of the northern breadbasket states of Punjab and Haryana.

At midday (0630 GMT), police fired multiple tear gas rounds to disperse the marchers at Shambhu, a border crossing between Punjab and Haryana, about 230 km (143 miles) north of Delhi, where many had joined the march.

Footage showed protesters trying to break through the barricades by lifting away cement blocks placed there to halt the march, as police used drones to fire tear gas rounds into the crowd. Some protesters were also detained.

The outskirts of Delhi were quiet with riot control teams standing guard behind barricades on main roads leading into the national capital, where police have prohibited large gatherings.

Farm unions are seeking guarantees, backed by law, for more state support or buying of crops at a minimum price. They also want the government to honour a promise to double their income.

Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda told reporters on Monday after talks with union leaders that some issues had been resolved but more discussions were needed. “We are hopeful that we will bring solutions,” he said.

India’s main opposition Congress party said the government had failed the farmers. “As a result of inadequate market prices and simultaneous price increase of inputs, farmers are falling deeper into debt,” Congress lawmaker Jairam Ramesh said in a social media post.

The government announces minimum prices for more than 20 crops each year, but state agencies buy only rice and wheat at these prices, which benefits only about 6% of farmers.

In 2021, when the year-long protest by farmers pushed Modi’s administration to repeal some farm laws, designed to deregulate vast agricultural markets, the government said it would set up a panel to find ways to ensure support prices for all farm produce. Farmers accuse the government of going slow on that promise.

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Sydney Okafor

I am so passionate about this my profession as a broadcast journalist and voiceover artists and presently a reporter at TV360 Nigeria

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