Infostani International: Indian security forces clashed with thousands of farmers near New Delhi on Tuesday, as negotiations over minimum crop prices failed. Tear gas filled the air as police attempted to disperse protesters, reigniting farmer unrest ahead of upcoming elections.
Indian Security Forces Use Tear Gas to Disperse Farmers’ Protest Near New Delhi
On Tuesday, Indian security forces used tear gas to halt thousands of farmers demanding minimum crop prices from marching on the capital New Delhi after talks with the government failed. Local broadcasters aired scenes of thick clouds of tear gas dispersing protesters near Ambala, about 200 kilometers (125 miles) north of the capital, with police also deploying drones to drop canisters from the air. Police set up a formidable blockade of metal spikes, cement, and steel barricades on highways from three surrounding states leading to New Delhi.
“Maximum numbers have been deployed,” stated Ranjay Atrishya, assistant commissioner of Delhi Police. Public gatherings of more than five people were banned in the city.
Farmers’ Protest Escalates as Indian Security Forces Employ Tear Gas and Barricades
Farmers in India wield significant political influence due to their sheer numbers, and the threat of renewed protests arises ahead of national elections likely to commence in April. Two-thirds of India’s 1.4 billion people draw their livelihood from agriculture, contributing to nearly a fifth of the country’s GDP according to government figures. Farmers called for a “Delhi Chalo”, or “March to Delhi”, echoing January 2021 when farmers breached barricades and entered the city on Republic Day during their then year-long protest.
“The farmers are peaceful, but tear gas is being used against us through drones,” remarked Sarwan Singh Pandher, a top farmers’ union official from Punjab. Police set up barricades on multiple highways leading from New Delhi to block thousands of protesting farmers.
Farmers’ Demands and Police Preparations in Haryana
Indian broadcasters showcased columns of hundreds of tractors moving towards the capital from the surrounding states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, with some using their machines to remove barricades from roads. Where roads could not be cleared, farmers in tractors attempted to navigate across the countryside. Police in Haryana state, adjoining Delhi, stated they had made “strong arrangements”, adding that the situation was “under control”.
The farmers are demanding a law to fix a minimum price for their crops, along with a clutch of other concessions including waiving off loans.
“The government should listen to the farmers instead of using tear gas shells and guns against them,” stated Randeep Surjewala, an opposition Congress MP from Haryana, where many of the protesting farmers hail from.
Challenges and Changes in Indian Agriculture: Farmers’ Protests and Policy Reforms
Protests by farmers against agricultural reform bills in November 2020 lasted for more than a year, posing the biggest challenge to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government since it came to power in 2014. Tens of thousands of farmers then set up makeshift camps, with at least 700 people killed during the protests. In November 2021, a year after protests began, Modi pushed through parliament the repeal of three contentious laws that farmers claimed would allow private companies to control the country’s agriculture sector.
Thousands of Indian farmers die by suicide every year due to poverty, debt, and crops affected by increasingly erratic weather patterns caused by climate change.