11/26/2020, 16.44
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Thousands of Punjab farmers clash with police

Farmers are marching towards the capital to protest against the recent agricultural reform, which liberalises agricultural markets. Small farmers complain that the new law favours large groups. For Prime Minister Modi, the new law will help tens of millions of farmers. The Catholic Church speaks out on the issue.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) – Thousands of Punjab farmers clashed with police today, some 200 km from the capital, as they marched along northern India’s main highway to protest against the country’s recent agricultural reform.

Police used water cannons and tear gas to stop the marchers at a bridge crossing. The latter were "armed" with sticks and stones. After a two-hour standoff, the march was eventually allowed to resume.

About 70 per cent of Indian rural households depend on agriculture. In recent years, repeated droughts have impoverished farmers, a situation made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.

In late September, the Indian parliament liberalised the agricultural market, allowing farmers to sell to anyone at any price, instead of selling to state-controlled markets at fixed prices.

According to small farmers, the new rules favour large monopoly groups, which will now be able to impose prices.

Before the reform was given the green light, Card George Alencherry, major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, spoke out on the issue, asking that “farmers not be denied their rights”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has defended the new system, stating that it will bring great benefits to tens of millions of farmers because it will promote greater inter- and intra-state trade in farm products.

Government supporters note that the legislation does not dismantle the system of rice and grains purchasing by public agencies, nor does it eliminate the guaranteed minimum price for agricultural products.

For several observers, however, state agencies will struggle to compete with large groups in a competitive market.

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