Indian farmers clash with police in protest over market reform

A police officer fires tear gas to stop farmers opposing the newly passed farm bills from entering the national capital Delhi, at Singhu border, India November 27, 2020. — Reuters pic
A police officer fires tear gas to stop farmers opposing the newly passed farm bills from entering the national capital Delhi, at Singhu border, India November 27, 2020. — Reuters pic

NEW DELHI, Nov 27 — Thousands of protesting Indian farmers scuffled with police today during a march to the capital, Delhi, against new laws liberalising procurement that they say will leave them vulnerable to big companies.

Police fired several rounds of tear gas at some places on the outskirts of Delhi and used water cannons at entry points to stop the farmers coming into the city centre.

Television showed plumes of smoke and some people throwing stones at police as thousands pressed against barricades, waving flags and sticks. Some rode tractors near the barriers.

“Although the police have tried to stop us with force, barricades and water cannons, we've decided to stay the course to make sure the government listens to the voice of millions of farmers,” said protesting farmer Sukrampal Dhayana.

Under the laws enacted in September that Prime Minister Narendra Modi called a watershed for agriculture, farmers are free to sell their produce anywhere, including to big corporate buyers, instead of at government-regulated wholesale markets where farmers are assured of a minimum procurement price.

Many farmer organisations oppose the new law, saying it would leave small growers with little bargaining power. They also say they fear the government will eventually withdraw price support for wheat and rice.

The government says there is no plan to eliminate the wholesale markets.

The new law was aimed at making the vast agriculture sector more efficient by freeing up farmers who want to sell directly to big retailers such as Walmart.

Suburban train services into Delhi were suspended, the Delhi Metro said in a post on Twitter, in a bid to stop the protesters from riding the trains. — Reuters

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