Indian authorities have deployed heavy security to stop thousands of protesting farmers who were marching towards New Delhi to renew their demands for assured crop prices in a repeat of 2021 protests when they camped on the capital’s outskirts for more than a year.
Police sealed multiple entry points into New Delhi on Tuesday by erecting barriers of barbed wire, spikes and cement blocks. Large gatherings in the capital were banned and internet services were suspended in some districts of the neighbouring state of Haryana.
The renewed protests come more than two years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew controversial agriculture laws that had triggered the demonstrations in which tens of thousands of farmers hunkered outside the capital through a harsh winter and a devastating COVID-19 surge.
The farmers, who began their march from the northern states of Haryana and Punjab, are asking for a guaranteed minimum support price for all farm produce. The government protects agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices by announcing a minimum purchase price on certain essential crops at the beginning of the sowing season, taking into account the cost of production.
Farmers are also pressing the government to meet its promise to double their income.
The withdrawal of the agricultural laws in November 2021 was seen as a major retreat by the Modi government. The government at that time said it would set up a panel of farmers and government officials to find ways to ensure support prices for all farm produce. Multiple meetings since then have made no progress.
The march comes just months before national elections in India, in which Modi is widely expected to win a third term.
Farmers form the most influential voting bloc in India and politicians have long considered it unwise to alienate them.
Some farmer and trade unions have also announced a countrywide rural strike on Friday.