The police want the camps on the outskirts of the capital to be cleared. Tension rises after the clashes on January 26th. The great demonstration of February 1st cancelled. President Kovind: the measure helps the farmers. Modi opposition supports the protests.
New Delhi (AsiaNews) - The police have ordered farmers who oppose land reform to evacuate their camps on the outskirts of the capital and to stop the demonstrations. A part of the protesters has opposed the request, instead promising to continue until the measure is abolished by the Narendra Modi government.
On January 26, coinciding with the Republic Day, tens of thousands of demonstrators invaded the centre of the capital with their tractors, clashing with the police: the death toll is one death among the demonstrators and 400 injured, especially policemen.
The authorities reacted with a series of arrests, as well as intensifying the police presence on the edge of the fields organized by peasants. Since the end of November, protest camps had already blocked several highways on the outskirts of Delhi, causing major traffic problems in the city’s residential and industrial sectors.
After the violence three days ago, the farmers' front split. Two of the 42 trade unions that organized the protests withdrew. The big demonstration on February 1st in front of the Parliament was cancelled.
Adopted in September, the farm reform liberalises India’s agricultural market. Indian farmers can now sell to anyone at any price, instead of selling to government agencies at a fixed price.
Growers, especially small farmers, want the reform to be scrapped and the old “managed” system to be restored, with the guarantee of a minimum price for their produce. Farmers fear that the new rules will allow big groups to monopolise the market and impose lower prices.
Prime Minister Modi has defended the reform, saying it will bring great benefits to tens of millions of growers. Government supporters also note that the legislation does not eliminate the system of buying at a fixed price for rice and grains by public agencies.
Most Indian economists and experts think the same way. However, they are critical of the government for not consulting farmers before imposing the measure.
Speaking to the two houses of parliament today, President Ram Nath Kovind tried to ease tensions. He argued that the reform will benefit farmers. Eighteen opposition parties have the opposite opinion, which have decided to boycott Kovind's speech in solidarity with the peasants. Delhi's chief minister, Arvind Kejriwal, also continues to support the demonstrators.