Farmers protesting three new agricultural laws in India are calling on Tuesday for a peaceful nationwide shutdown called Bharat Bandh.
This comes a day before their sixth meeting with the government on Wednesday.
“More than 50 percent of the nation is involved in agriculture … the sector has suffered for decades and farmers are protesting – workers, traders have also protested,” author Amandeep Sandhu, who wrote and narrated the l history of Punjab, told Global News on Monday.
Sandhu, who is based in Bangalore and said he is in daily contact with several protesters in Delhi, said talks are stalled as the repeal of the three farm bills remains non-negotiable.
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The Indian government maintains that the reforms will benefit the struggling sector by eliminating state middlemen and deregulating agriculture.
Farmers fear the new laws could lead to a death sentence, with tens of thousands camping in the cold and blocking major roads to continue their protest until the bills are repealed.
“What these new laws do is that they don’t solve any of the structural problems in agriculture, but throw the whole sector out to corporations, crony capitalists and big businessmen, and that is of great concern to them. farmers, laborers and traders. and all those involved in the agrarian system, ”Sandhu said.
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“They allow companies to make lopsided deals without real legal recourse for farmers and which will really break farmers if companies break their promises.”
Police fired tear gas and water cannons at protesters who garnered international support.
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is believed to be the first world leader to speak out, saying Canada “will always stand up for the right to protest peacefully” and dismissing the resulting criticism of Canada’s envoy to India.
“Maybe it is his domestic restraint because Jagmeet Singh of the NDP backs his government and he knows he has wide Punjabi Sikh support, but we are from Punjab and while all of northern India many other peasants are also protesting. Sandhu said, encouraging other world leaders to speak up as well.
Bharat Bandh is expected to last from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will signal the closure of offices, shops, dairy shipments and transport operators.
“Bharat” means India and “bandh” means closed. Bandhs have long been used as a tool to protest government policies.
It is expected that there will be significant implications for the northern state of Punjab, where most of the farmers protesting and where several groups have extended their support for the bandh.
Regarding COVID-19, Sandhu said farmers were concerned about the spread.
“Why did the government have to pass these laws during COVID-19, why did it have to pass them through parliament during the [pandemic]”He said, adding that” the only bright light is that the death rate has not been as high as expected six months ago … but it is a situation where farmers are at the mercy “.
The organized strike began on November 26, when farmers began their march to the nation’s capital.
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