In India, hundreds of thousands of farmers have been protesting against the controversial farm laws of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Farmers say the laws will hurt them and must be repealed but the government insists farmers are being misled. Five rounds of negotiations have failed. DW went to meet farmers camped out on national highways into Delhi after they were barred from entering the Indian capital.
Three weeks out in the winter cold –passions are still running high at this protest. Thousands of farmers have occupied this main highway to Delhi, with a simple ultimatum – repeal the new farm laws, or we will stay put.
Ratinderbir Kaur has worked tirelessly at a free kitchen to feed the protesting farmers. She sees the blockade as an opportunity – she wants to teach her young daughters what it means to fight for their rights.
Beant Singh believes the new farm laws will likely slash margins on his sugarcane crop. The new legislation allows farmers to sell to corporates, but Singh believes this will eventually undermine the security of a Minimum Support Price guaranteed by the government. He is also frustrated that farmers were not consulted before the laws were passed – for him, it is an unwanted gift.
And it is this determination to make the government listen that has made this protest a growing force to reckon with.
Veteran rural affairs journalist P Sainath is out here to talk to the farmers. In his view the negotiations collapsed because amending what he calls fundamentally “bad laws” won’t change their content.
He also says this government’s lack of consistency on promises made to farmers over the years has increased their distrust. He acknowledges that the current system needs reform, but he feels these laws fail to do that.
For now, the young and the old have come together determined to make their voices heard. Despite the bitter cold and the deadlock, their spirits are high.
For 69 year old Sukhwant Singh Cheema, this protest is a celebration. Cheema has tilled land since childhood, and he says the time has come to teach the government a much needed lesson.
The government insists that the farmers are misunderstanding the intent of the law. However the farmers say they haven’t faced water cannon and baton charges for a cause they don’t grasp. They are adamant they will not give up till the Modi government backs down.
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