Hundreds of farmers have blocked roads and railway tracks across India, disrupting traffic to mark four months of protests against a set of farm laws they say will leave them at the mercy of big corporations.
The farmers’ unions called for a 12-hour countrywide strike on Friday to maintain pressure to repeal the laws passed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in September 2020.
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Modi’s government says the laws, which ease rules regarding storage, marketing and the sale of produce, will modernise and energise the farming sector.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been camped on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi since late November.
“Four months ago, this day, farmers came to the borders of Delhi with their demands. But this government isn’t listening to the farmers,” said union leader Gurinder Singh Pannu.
“This protest will continue,” he added.
Across the northern states of Haryana and Punjab, protesters blocked railway tracks at dozens of locations, leading to the cancellation of at least four passenger trains.
“Around 30 trains are held up,” Deepak Kumar, an Indian railways spokesman, told Reuters news agency.
Freight movement had also been affected, with around 20 goods trains currently stalled, Kumar said.
At a major protest camp in Delhi’s Ghazipur, protesters blocked a highway connecting the capital city with neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state.
Police also built additional barricades, topped by concertina wire, and hundreds of personnel had been deployed.
Of about a thousand protesters at the site, some danced and sang on Friday. “Take back the black laws,” they chanted in Hindi.
All transport remained off the roads in Andhra Pradesh state, while a more limited response was reported from other parts of the country, NDTV news channel reported.
Several rounds of talks between the government and the farm leaders have failed and there are no new meetings planned for now.