Tens of thousands have been camping outside the capital for weeks to protest against the land reform. They are calling for the abrogation of liberalization plans and a return to the previous "controlled" system. Large groups - protesters say - could impose too low prices.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - "The government ignores the demands of farmers, but unprecedented protests are underway," says Father Joseph Odanat. Speaking to AsiaNews the priest from the local diocese of Faridabad expresses solidarity with the tens of thousands of farmers who have been protesting against the land reform for weeks.
Together with four other priests from Kerala, Fr. Joseph visited the demonstrators (see video), camped at the gates of the capital. The religious wonder how the authorities can be so inhumane: “The small farmers organized themselves autonomously, without the support of political parties. We salute their courage and unity.”
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 for 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 agricultural work: 85% are small farmers, who own up to five acres of land.
Yesterday the farmer leaders rejected the government's proposal to change the reform. Alternatively, demonstrators demand that at least a minimum price be guaranteed for their products. They fear that the market will be monopolized by large corporations, who will be able to dictate more competitive prices.
The unions have announced an intensification of the unrest. They threaten to block the Jaipur-Delhi and Delhi-Agra highways by 12 December, and then expand the protest nationwide. The president of the Krantikari Kisan Union, Darshan Pal, explained that not even the latest government proposals meet the demands of the peasants.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi defends the initiative, saying that 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.