New Delhi: Flushed with victory after Prime Minister Narendra Modi caved into demands for the three farm laws to be repealed, Indian farmers held a mass rally today to demand that minimum support prices be extended to all produce, not just rice and wheat.
The protest movement launched by farmers more than a year ago, becoming one of the most serious political challenges to the BJP government, resulted in PM Modi making a surprise commitment on Friday to roll back the the three agricultural reform laws.
Thousands gathered for the latest rally in Uttar Pradesh’s Lucknow, where the BJP seeks to hold onto power in the state elections due early next year.
Since late 2020, thousands of farmers have camped on the outskirts of New Delhi as part of a mass agitation to pressurise PM Modi into rolling back the reforms.
His climbdown sparked celebrations among farmers, but leaders of the movement immediately warned that the protests would continue until the government promised to introduce a law that would guarantee minimum prices for all crops.
Currently, the government mainly buys rice and wheat at guaranteed Minimum Support Prices, but the safety net benefits barely 6 per cent of India’s millions of farmers.
In a letter addressed to PM Modi on Sunday, the main farmers’ body Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM) said: “Minimum Support Price, based on the comprehensive cost of production, should be made a legal entitlement of all farmers (and) for all agricultural produce…”
Farmers also asked for the federal government to withdraw a draft electricity bill, that they fear would lead to state governments withdrawing their right to free or subsidised power, used mainly for irrigation.
The northern state of Punjab, part of India’s grain belt, gives free electricity to the agriculture sector, while some states subsidise power to farmers.
Growers have also asked the government to drop fines and other penalties for burning their fields after harvesting to remove stalk and chaff. The smoke has become a major source of air pollution in Delhi and satellite towns bordering the crop growing northern states.
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