On Monday, Indian police took measures to block roads in an attempt to halt farmers who were marching towards New Delhi, seeking better crop prices as promised to them in 2021. This action comes amid efforts by government ministers to meet with farm union leaders to prevent a recurrence of the year-long protests that took place last year.
The protests last year aimed at pressuring the government to repeal farm laws designed to deregulate agricultural markets. The current march by farmers comes just ahead of national elections in India, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to seek a third term. Given the significant influence of India’s millions of farmers as a voting bloc, ruling parties typically strive to maintain their support.
Footage from television broadcasts depicted farmers in tractors heading towards Delhi from Punjab and Haryana, with barriers such as barbed wire fencing and cement blocks erected on the outskirts of the city to impede their progress. Additionally, police issued orders prohibiting public gatherings in Delhi.
The farmers are demanding higher support prices for their produce and urging the government to fulfill its promise of doubling farmers’ income. While the government announces support prices for over 20 crops annually to establish a benchmark, state agencies typically only buy rice and wheat at these levels, benefiting a small percentage of farmers who cultivate these crops.
In response to last year’s protests, the Modi administration repealed the farm laws and pledged to establish a panel consisting of farmers and government officials to explore ways to ensure support prices for all agricultural produce.