Tens of thousands of Indian farmers and rural workers marched to the parliament in the capital, New Delhi, on Friday in a protest against soaring operating costs and plunging produce prices that have brought misery to many.
The protest is one of the biggest displays of frustration with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, which faces a tough general election due by May next year. India’s 263 million farmers make up an important voting bloc.
Agriculture contributes about 15 percent to India’s $2.6 trillion economies, Asia’s third-largest, but employs nearly half of its 1.3 billion people.
Denied permission by police to march to Parliament, around 35,000 farmers from across the country have converged near Parliament Street Police station in the national capital on Friday, where their leaders addressed the protesters.
Deputy commissioner of police Madhur Verma said that multiple rounds of talks with protesting leaders were held, following which they were given permission to move to Jantar Mantar with “conditions”. “Proper arrangements have been made for security, traffic and law and order. We hope that farmers will follow the conditions,” he said.
As the Kisan rally arrived at Parliament Street, Tamil Nadu farmers took off their clothes and used the skulls and bones of their “dead crop growers” to cover their private parts. Some protesters were also spotted wearing garlands of dairy products. Scores of women, who said that their husbands committed suicide due to farm distress, participated in the procession with photographs of their deceased partners.
Commuters faced inconvenience as traffic has been diverted in central Delhi due to farmers’ protest. The protesters have blocked Jawaharlal Nehru Marg and Barakhamba Road as they head to Parliament. Raising slogans against the Modi government, the protesters ask “thieves of Rafale” to vacate the seat of power in Delhi.
Thousands of farmers, including members of Kisan Mukti Morcha, from across the country have gathered on day two of the protest to press for their demands, including debt relief and remunerative prices for their produce. In view of the large-scale agitation, security has been beefed up in the area.
Over 3,500 police personnel have been deployed on the route of the march. According to a senior police officer, special arrangements have been made in Central and New Delhi police districts.
Branded under the AIKSCC, which claims to be an umbrella body of 207 organizations of farmers and agricultural workers, many farmers arrived in the city on Thursday, on trains, buses and other modes of transport.
The AIKSCC was formed under the aegis of All India Kisan Sabha and other Left-affiliated farmers’ bodies in June 2017, following protests by farmers in states such as Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh for debt relief and remunerative prices.