Agitating farmer leaders today went on a day-long hunger strike against the Indian government’s contentious new farm laws, intensifying their protests which entered into the third week yesterday.
Farmer leader Baldev Singh said, “Representatives of farmer unions have started their hunger strike at Singhu on the border of Delhi.”
As part of the nationwide protest, sit-in demonstrations will be staged in all district headquarters across India today, he said.
Thousands of farmers, mostly from Punjab and Haryana states, have been staying put at four border points at Delhi for two weeks, protesting against the new farm laws.
Their agitation has been backed by most opposition parties in India.
On Sunday, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said he would also observe a day-long fast today, and appealed to the government to shun egos and scrap the legislations.
A large group of farmers had blocked the Delhi-Jaipur national highway on Sunday when they were stopped by police on the Haryana-Rajasthan border.
In view of nationwide protests today, the Delhi police has enhanced security at the city border points, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
The protest has been going on for nearly 20 days, with the farmers demanding the repeal of the three laws passed by Parliament in September.
The protesters have been shouting anti-government slogans, singing songs, and taking out marches with posters and banners.
The government has so far held five rounds of talks with farmers’ outfits, most of which are from the Punjab state, including a meeting called by Home Minister Amit Shah offering changes to the laws and written assurances. However, the deadlock has continued.
As the protests entered the third week, Indian Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar on Sunday accused the opposition parties of running a propaganda against the new farm laws and said these legislations “may cause difficulty for some in the short term” but will be beneficial to farmers in the long run.
Tomar, who is leading negotiations with the 40 protesting farmer unions to break the stalemate, was addressing a delegation of over 100 farmers from Uttarakhand who came to extend their support to the laws.
“Manmohan Singh Ji (former Prime Minister of India) tried many times but could not put the laws in effect. Today, when it is implemented, propaganda is being spread,” Tomar said.
Farmer unions say the new laws will lead to the dismantling of the Minimum Support Price (MSP) system, under which government agencies buy their crop at an assured price.
In its proposal to farmers on Wednesday, the centre had said it will give a written assurance that the MSP system will remain and also redress their other key concerns.
The unions, however, are demanding complete rollback of the laws.
On Thursday, the government had asked farmer groups to reconsider its proposals for amending the Acts to address their concerns, and said it was open to discussing its offer further whenever the unions want, but protesters remained defiant.