Indian farmers reject government offer to delay controversial reforms

Namita Singh
·2-min read
<p>Farmers sit along a blocked highway as they continue to protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border in Ghazipur on 18 January 2021</p> (AFP via Getty Images)

Farmers sit along a blocked highway as they continue to protest against the central government's recent agricultural reforms at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border in Ghazipur on 18 January 2021

(AFP via Getty Images)

Protesting farmers in India have rejected the government’s proposal to suspend contentious agricultural reforms for 18 months.

After hours of discussion, the United Farmer’s Front, a coalition of 500 farmers’ unions, said that they will stand firm in their demands and not stand down from large scale sit-in protests unless the three new laws are completely repealed.

While the Modi administration has claimed the new laws will benefit farmers and boost production, farmers fear the reforms – which will further open up the agriculture sector to free market forces – will slash incomes currently protected by a minimum support price.

“The proposal to suspend the laws is not acceptable because our demand is a repeal of the laws,” Darshan Pal, a senior leader of the agitation, was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times.

As a result, tens of thousands of farmers have been camping at the outskirts of the capital and protesting for about two months despite the raging pandemic and an ongoing cold wave.

The Indian Supreme Court temporarily halted the implementation of the law and formed a four-member committee to look into the concerns raised by the farmers. The apex court has tasked the panel with submitting a report on the views of farmers and suggesting a solution to the standoff.

The protesting farmers also refused to work with the committee, arguing that its members have already publicly expressed their support for the new legislation. Following the backlash, Bhupinder Singh Mann, one of the members of the committee, recused himself.

“As a farmer myself and a union leader, in view of the prevailing sentiments and apprehensions amongst the farm unions and the public in general, I am ready to sacrifice any position offered or given to me so as to not compromise the interests of Punjab and farmers of the country,” Mr Mann said in a statement.

The farmers have also threatened to hold a rally on 26 January, when the country celebrates its Republic Day, by marching on tractors into the capital Delhi. Farm leaders said on Friday that the tractor parade would go ahead despite police refusing to grant permission, and that it would be “up to the government” to ensure the situation remains peaceful.

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