Indian farmers to continue highway protests after talks fail

World

A farmer lies under the belly of a tractor trolley next to a bonfire as they block a major highway in a protest against new farm laws while it rains at the Delhi-Uttar Pradesh state border, India, Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Representatives of the Indian government and protesting farmers failed again Monday to reach agreement on the farmers’ demand that new agricultural reform laws be repealed.

With the government refusing to revoke the legislation, the farmers pledged to continue blockading key highways linking the capital with the country’s north. The two sides agreed to meet for more talks on Friday.

“It is up to the government whether it wants to solve the farmers’ problems. We will not end our protests until our demands are met,” said Hannan Mollah, a leader of the farmers.

Tens of thousands of farmers have been blocking the highways for nearly 40 days despite the coronavirus pandemic, rains and an ongoing cold wave.

Farmers fear the government will stop buying grain at minimum guaranteed prices under the laws and that corporations will then push prices down. The government said it is willing to pledge that guaranteed prices will continue.

The farmers say the laws will lead to the cartelization and commercialization of agriculture and make farmers vulnerable to corporate greed.

The farmers have threatened to hold a rally on Jan. 26 when India celebrates Republic Day if their demands are not met.

In their last meeting on Dec. 30, the two sides reached a consensus on two issues — that the government would continue its subsidy of electricity for irrigating farms and that farmers would not be punished for burning crop residues, a cause of air pollution.

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