Tens of thousands of farmers protesting a set of pro-market agricultural laws are enforcing a nationwide shutdown from 11am to 3pm on Tuesday. Major Opposition parties have supported their strike call. The farmers have stocked up on months of supplies, preparing to dig in for months on New Delhi’s borders. The strike has so far been peaceful but it has choked the Capital. Here’s what to expect through the day.
How will the Bharat Bandh impact you?
The impact of the strike is likely to be most felt in New Delhi and its adjacent satellite towns. The crisis has already snarled traffic into New Delhi at many points. Routes out of Delhi to Meerut, Haryana and Punjab are blocked, police said on Tuesday. An advisory on the Delhi Traffic Police’s Twitter handle has a list of alternate routes commuters may take.
What’s open and what’s shut?
Banks are functioning as banking unions have withdrawn support to the strike. Major primary agricultural markets across the country are shut, hampering transportation of essentials. The Railways’ two major unions, All India Railwaymen’s Federation (AIRF) and National Federation of Indian Railwaymen (NFIR), have lent support to the farmers’ strike, which may affect running of trains. Flight and airports are functioning as usual.
Why are farmers protesting?
Farmers want the Narendra Modi government to revoke three contentious laws approved by Parliament in September. The laws essentially change the way India’s farmers do business by creating free markets, as opposed to a network of decades-old, government-controlled agricultural markets.
What do the new laws contain?
The laws allow businesses to freely trade farm produce outside the so-called government-controlled “mandi system”, permit private traders to stockpile large quantities of essential commodities for future sales, which earlier only government-approved agents could, and lay down new rules for contract farming.
What do the changes aim to achieve?
The government has leaned on a reformist agenda to overhaul India’s antiquated agriculture. Deregulation of markets will pave the way for competition in agriculture markers, which currently run on an archaic licenced system. Increasing the food-stocking limits of traders will spur private investments in supply chains and cold chain, which are scarce, officials say.
Why do farmers oppose these new rules?
Farmers say the reforms would make them vulnerable to exploitation by big corporations, erode their bargaining power and weaken the government’s procurement system, whereby the government buys staples, such as wheat and rice, at guaranteed prices.
How will the government solve the crisis?
The Modi government has so far held six rounds of talks with farmers’ unions, but they have refused to call off the strike, rejecting a proposal to make amendments to the laws. They have stuck to their demand for a repeal of the laws. The next round of talks is slated for December 9.
Does the farmers’ rebellion pose a risk to the government?
Modi’s popularity has held up despite the pandemic due to his welfare policies and strong personal appeal. His party won elections in Bihar just last month. The new farm laws however have rattled his administration and pose a political challenge. More than half of the population is dependent on a farm-based income.
Source: Hindustan Times