Intl celebrities weigh in on Indian farmers’ protest

KANDELA: Indian farmers’ leaders on Wednesday outlined plans to scale up months of protests against agricultural reforms, as their cause gained high-profile supporters in the West.
Demanding the repeal of three new farm laws that they say will hurt them to the benefit of large corporations, tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of Delhi since late 2020.
Their generally peaceful protest was marred by violence last week, when some demonstrators drove a procession of tractors into the heart of the capital and clashed with police.
Police have since erected barricades around three main protest sites and shut off the Internet in some areas.
Farmers’ leaders, speaking hours after US pop superstar Rihanna weighed into the row in a posting to her 101 million Twitter followers, said they would not back down.
“This gathering shows the anger against the government and we will continue our fight’’, union leader Rakesh Tikait told a 50,000-strong rally of the politically influential Jat community in northern Haryana state.
He and other leaders said they would send more farmers to the Delhi protest sites and hold similar meetings across the country to gather further support.
Rakesh Singh Vidhuri, a farmer from the neighbouring state of Punjab, the epicentre of the protests, who attended Wednesday’s meeting, said the movement was bringing together growers from across India’s northern breadbasket region.
“The protests have spread because these laws will impact the livelihood of farmers and Indian agriculture overall’’, he said.
The farmers say the reforms, which will allow big retailers to buy directly from growers, will mean the end of long-standing guaranteed prices for their crops and leave them vulnerable to the whims of big business.
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which has offered some concessions but ruled out abandoning them, says they will benefit farmers and draw investment to a sector that makes up nearly 15pc of India’s $2.9 trillion economy and employs about half its workforce. — Reuters