After the government failed to secure minimum prices for their crops, thousands of farmers commenced their march towards the capital city, New Delhi. On Tuesday, to keep them from entering the city, Indian security forces used tear gas.
The local Indian television channels aired visuals of thick clouds of tear gas that were used to scatter the protesting farmers near Ambala, which is situated to the north of New Delhi. The authorities had set up enormous roadblocks with metal spikes, cement blocks, and steel barriers on the primary roads to the capital from the three neighboring states.
Ranjay Atrishya, the deputy commissioner of New Delhi police, mentioned that maximum strength has been deployed. In the capital, any public gathering comprising more than five individuals has been prohibited. There were long convoys of tractors moving towards the capital from the neighboring states of Punjab, Haryana, and Uttar Pradesh, as reported by the television channels.
The farmers initiated a “Delhi Chalo” (march on Delhi) that resembles their protest on January 26, 2021, when they surpassed police blockades to enter New Delhi on Republic Day. This was during a conflict that lasted several months with the government against the liberalization of agricultural markets.
Owing to their large population, farmers in India hold considerable political influence. The possibility of more protests is looming, especially with the national elections expected to be held in April. Almost two-thirds of the 1.4 billion population earn their livelihood from agriculture, which contributes to nearly a fifth of the country’s GDP, as per official statistics.
Swaran Singh Pandher, a leader of a national farmers’ association, stated that farmers across the country are prepared to march on Delhi from Tuesday if the government fails to meet their demands.
These demands include the establishment of a minimum price for crops, the introduction of pensions, and debt cancellations. The demonstrators claim that trucks from certain states where there is no minimum price sell their goods where a minimum price exists.
Like in France, farmers are seeking prompt responses three months ahead of the country’s legislative elections. However, the previous farmer protests stretched over a year, ending in late 2021. During the protests, tens of thousands of farmers formed temporary camps and over 700 people lost their lives.