Farmers Protest

Thousands of farmers rally in New Delhi to demand higher crop prices

Thousands of farmers rally in New Delhi to demand higher crop prices
Indian farmers take part in 'Kisan Mazdoor' Mahapanchayat (congregation) at Ramlila maidan in New Delhi, India, 14 March 2024. Hundreds of farmers and their Unions gave a call for Mahapanchayat (gathering of people from villages) in Delhi to aim to highlight issues of a legal guarantee of minimum support price of their produce. Indian farmers have been protesting since 13 February 2024, as part of 'Delhi Chalo' (On to Delhi!) protest march demanding a law guaranteeing minimum support price (MSP) for their produce. EPA-EFE/RAJAT GUPTA

NEW DELHI, March 14 (Reuters) - Thousands of farmers rode buses and trains from across India to gather on Thursday at a rally in the capital, New Delhi, pressing a demand for higher guaranteed prices for their crops, as they faced down police barricades and tough security.

The rally, days before general elections are expected to be called in an exercise that will see Prime Minister Narendra Modi seek a rare third term, comes a month after police wielding tear gas and water cannons halted a farmers’ march outside New Delhi.

“Through this meeting, we want to show government authorities that we are not too far from reaching our goals,” Darshan Pal, of a farmers’ group, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), told news agency ANI.

“We can surround Delhi whenever we want.”

There was no immediate comment from the government or Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) but they have said in the past they are committed to the welfare and prosperity of farmers, who form an influential voting bloc.

Groups of farmers listened to their leaders’ speeches while intermittently chanting slogans against Modi and his government, which had stopped the Feb. 13 March at a spot about 200 km (125 miles) from New Delhi, at which the farmers camped.

Police threw up barricades, tightened security, and warned of traffic congestion in preparation for Thursday’s rally at the capital’s Ramlila Maidan, a popular site for gatherings.

Farmers from states such as Maharashtra in the west and Odisha in the east were undeterred by the high turnout of police and paramilitary.

“This is a one-day event meant to serve as a reminder to Modi government of their unfulfilled promises,” said Narendra Singh, a farmer from the northern state of Haryana.

Farmers say the Modi government had committed in 2021 to set up a panel to find ways of ensuring support prices for all produce but had been going slow on it.

They also want the government to honour a promise to double their incomes and act against a federal minister whose son was arrested during similar protests in 2021 after being accused of running over and killing four protesters.



“Our main demand is a legally guaranteed minimum support price,” said 39-year-old Utpal Biswas, from the eastern state of West Bengal. “Today’s protest is supposed to last for a day but we will see how it progresses.”

With the elections due by May, allowing the farmers to gather in the capital, even though under strict conditions meant to ensure public order, is seen as a concession from the government which has blocked them outside the city in the past.

“Today is an important day because the government has finally come under pressure from farmers and farmer groups,” Jairam Ramesh, a spokesperson of the main opposition Congress party, told ANI.

“In the end, they have got permission for a gathering (in Delhi).”

Farmers say at least one protester has died in clashes with police over the last month and dozens more have been injured.

Modi suffered his biggest political defeat two years ago, when a similar year-long protest forced him to repeal some farm reforms.

(Editing by YP Rajesh and Clarence Fernandez)


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