WORLD Indian farmers agree to meet government officials over contentious farm laws

WORLD

Indian farmers agree to meet government officials over contentious farm laws

CGTN

15:05, December 27, 2020

Leaders of Indian farmers' unions have agreed to meet ministers on Tuesday, possibly paving the way for a seventh round of talks with the government which has so far failed to appease growers who say three new agricultural laws threaten their livelihoods.

A view of a crowded highway as farmers protest against new farm laws at a state border in Shahjahanpur, Rajasthan, India, December 26, 2020. (Photo: CGTN)

Worried over farmers' round-the-clock sit-ins on the outskirts of New Delhi, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi had on Thursday invited protest leaders to further talks.

Farmers' unions still insist they want the laws repealed, a coalition of unions called Samyukta Kisan Morcha said on Saturday in a letter to the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare.

"We have decided to hold talks and are giving a proposal. Our proposal is that talks between representatives of farmers and the central government be held on December 29 at 11 a.m.," said Yogendra Yadav, head of the socio-political organization Swaraj India.

The government said the laws, which came into force in September, would free farmers from having to sell their produce only at regulated wholesale markets. It argued farmers would gain if large traders, retailers and food processors could buy directly from producers, bypassing antiquated wholesale markets.

Nearly 60 percent of the Indian population depends on agriculture for livelihood. Tens of thousands of farmers have camped out on national highways demanding the government withdraw the laws they fear will eventually undermine regulated markets and stop the government buying of rice and wheat at guaranteed prices.

India's Supreme Court on Thursday suggested the government consider delaying implementation of new agricultural reform laws to restore a dialogue with the protesting farmers.

Modi has dismissed the farmers' protests as motivated by his political opponents, while the main opposition Congress party leader Rahul Gandhi has accused the prime minister of introducing the laws to help a few business people.

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