India: Farmers reject government offer of guaranteed crop prices

NEW DELHI (AP) — Indian farmers who have been protesting for a week demanding guaranteed crop prices have rejected a government proposal and say they will continue their march to the capital, New Delhi.

Protesting farmers started their march last week, but their efforts to reach the city have been blocked by authoritieswho have blocked highways in the capital with cement blocks, metal containers, barbed wire and iron nails to avoid a repeat of the 2021 farmers' protests, during which they camped on the outskirts of the city for over a year. Had camped.

Farmers are demanding a law that guarantees minimum prices for 23 crops. Late on Monday night, farmer leaders said they had rejected the government's offer of a five-year contract for guaranteed prices for five crops, including pulses, maize and cotton.

Jagjit Singh Dallewal, one of the protest leaders, told the Press Trust of India news agency that the government's proposal on Sunday was "not in the interest of farmers".

He said the farmers – thousands of whom are camping about 200 kilometers (120 miles) from the capital awaiting a government resolution – would resume their march to New Delhi on Wednesday.

"We appeal to the government to either resolve our issues or remove the barricades and allow us to go to Delhi to protest peacefully," Dallewal said.

The protests revived a movement that began two years ago, with thousands of farmers protesting against farm laws on the fringes of New Delhi for more than a year. Government canceled,

This time, farmers who came on tractors from neighboring states of Haryana and Punjab say the government has failed to make progress on other key demands of previous protests.

At the heart of the latest protests is a demand for a law that would guarantee minimum prices for their produce.

The government protects agricultural producers from sharp drops in agricultural prices by setting minimum purchase prices for certain essential crops, a system introduced in the 1960s to help shore up food stocks and prevent shortages. The system can apply to up to 23 crops, but the government usually provides minimum prices only for rice and wheat.

Farmers say that the guarantee of minimum support price for all 23 crops will stabilize their income. They are also pressuring the government to follow through on promises to double their income, waive loans and withdraw legal cases brought against them during the protests earlier in 2021.

Several meetings between farmer leaders and the government have failed to end the deadlock. Piyush Goyal, one of the ministers who interacted with the farmers, told PTI that some of the farmers' demands were "deep and policy-based", making it more difficult to find a solution.

The protests come at a crucial time for India, where national elections are expected in the coming months and Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party is widely expected to secure a third consecutive term.

Farmers are especially important to Modi's base. Northern Haryana and some other states with substantial farmer populations are ruled by his Bharatiya Janata Party.

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