Indian Farmers March to Delhi as Talks Fail Over Crop Prices

Indian Farmers March to Delhi as Talks Fail Over Crop Prices

SHAMBHU, India - Protests reignited in India as farmers, undeterred by previous setbacks, resumed their march towards the capital, New Delhi, amid renewed clashes with police forces. Tear gas filled the air as authorities attempted to disperse the determined demonstrators, who pressed forward equipped with cranes and excavators. Talks between farmer representatives and the government over guaranteed prices for agricultural produce had faltered, exacerbating tensions.

Seeking to evade the noxious clouds of tear gas, thousands of farmers, some donning medical masks, sought refuge in the fields surrounding their rallying point along a highway approximately 200 kilometers north of New Delhi. The police's intervention came on the heels of a fresh offer from Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration to reopen dialogue on the farmers' demands. Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda implored the farmers to seek resolution through peaceful negotiations.

"After the fourth round, the government is ready to discuss all the issues," Munda declared via the social network X, as the march resumed. "I again invite the farmer leaders for discussion. It is important for us to maintain peace." However, previous proposals put forth by the government, including five-year contracts and guaranteed support prices for crops such as corn, cotton, and pulses, had been rebuffed by the farmers' groups on Monday.

The farmers, predominantly from the northern state of Punjab, persist in their demand for higher prices safeguarded by legislation. They represent a significant voting bloc that Prime Minister Narendra Modi cannot afford to alienate, particularly with general elections looming in May.

Clad in riot gear, police officers lined the highway as the farmers, buoyed by morning fog, brandished flags adorned with the emblems of their unions. Despite the show of force, the resolve among the demonstrators remained unwavering, with some seen wearing gas masks as a precaution against the tear gas.

The tension escalated further as the Haryana police chief ordered the immediate confiscation of heavy equipment brought by the farmers, aiming to thwart potential attempts to breach barricades. Owners of such equipment were cautioned against lending or renting it to protesters, with authorities warning that any misuse to harm security forces would constitute a criminal offense.

With approximately 10,000 individuals and 1,200 tractors and wagons converging at the Shambhu border on Wednesday, authorities in Haryana sounded alarms about the risk of stone-throwing, given the demonstrators' possession of sticks and stones.

The protesters' rejection of the government's proposal, which offered minimum support prices to farmers diversifying their crops, mirrors similar defiance seen two years ago. In that instance, sustained protests at the outskirts of New Delhi forced Modi's government to repeal a series of contentious farm laws.

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