Indian farmers call for nationwide strike against new agricultural laws

In eastern and western states, Indian farmers have blocked roads and railway tracks, delaying people from getting to work and preventing perishable produce from reaching markets.

The impact of the strike, which is supported by several opposition parties, was most evident in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana where markets and petrol pumps remained closed in most towns.

“We will not allow the government to change the rules because they want to hurt farmers’ income by filling the pockets of big companies,” said Gurwinder Singh, a 66-year-old farmer from Punjab, a state known as the food bowl of India.

Rallies by farmers’ groups, left and regional political parties continued in several cities including Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Kolkata.

The farmers called for the strike on Tuesday after inconclusive talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

The farmers are demanding a rollback of three laws relating to the farming sector that were passed by parliament in September.

Hundreds of thousands of protesting farmers have been parked for 12 days now on the borders of Delhi after police stopped them from entering the capital.

Main highways into the city were blocked by the farmers allowing only the passage of ambulances and other emergency vehicles.

India’s government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) says the new laws are aimed at freeing farmers from antiquated marketing systems and middlemen and will fetch them better prices.

The farmers say the laws will benefit big corporations and dismantle a procurement system that guarantees them minimum prices for their produce and protects them from the vagaries of the market.

Several rounds of talks between farmers’ leaders and the government have not yet seen a breakthrough. The next round of talks is scheduled for New Delhi on Wednesday.