Supreme Court urges Delhi to postpone the reform contested by farmers

The constitutional judges offer to mediate. The farmers refuse the proposed changes and demand the government repeal the law: they want a fixed minimum price. The union presents an application for its annulment in court.


Delhi (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The Supreme Court has asked the government to postpone the application of the controversial land reform bill that has sparked protests by tens of thousands of farmers camped outside the capital for weeks.

Yesterday SA Bobde, president of the country's highest judicial body, argued that a postponement could help authorities and demonstrators restart talks, interrupted after five rounds of negotiations. The constitutional judges also offered to set up a mediation committee to seek a solution to the impasse.

The camps created by the demonstrators have blocked several highways on the outskirts of Delhi, causing major problems for urban traffic and the industrial fabric of the area.

Passed in September, the legislation liberalizes the agricultural market: Indian farmers can now sell to anyone at any price, instead of being forced to give their crops to state deposits at a fixed price. Farmers - especially those with small plots - want the reform to be dismantled and the previous "controlled" system to be restored. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation, 58% of the Indian population depends on working in the fields: 85% are small farmers, who own up to five acres of land.

Union leaders have so far rejected the government's proposal to change some parts of the reform. They want its complete repeal and the guarantee of a fixed minimum price for their products. Farmers fear that with the new rules the large corporations will monopolize the market by imposing more competitive prices.

Last week, the Indian Farmers Union filed an annulment petition in the Supreme Court. The trade union organization argues that the reform is arbitrary, given that the authorities approved it without consulting the operators in the sector.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi defends the initiative, saying it will bring great benefits to tens of millions of farmers, because it promotes greater circulation of agricultural products from one state to another and within them. Government supporters note that the legislation does not dismantle the system for purchasing rice and grains by public agencies, and does not eliminate the guaranteed minimum price of agricultural products.

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