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India farmers block roads and trains to protest reforms
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India farmers block roads and trains to protest reforms

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Farmers in India have taken to the streets to protest reforms that they say are against their
interests.

Several farming and trade unions, and opposition parties have blocked motorways and railway
tracks in different states.

But much of the protest is concentrated in the states of Punjab and Haryana where farm yields
are high.

The government denies that the reforms, which open the farming sector to private players,
will hurt farmers.

The governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which proposed the three bills that contain
the reforms, has defended them as necessary to increase farm incomes and productivity.
While farmers in many states can already sell to private players, these bills offer a national
framework.

Opposition parties and various farmers' groups, however, say they are "anti-farmer", and make
them vulnerable to market forces. They have called for nation-wide demonstrations to oppose
the reforms.

Nearly all farmers' unions in Punjab have called for a strike in the state, reports BBC Punjabi's
Sarabjit Dhaliwal.

"Farmers here are sitting on railway tracks. Both men and women farmers have gathered in large
numbers across the state," he said.

Farmers in Punjab say they will continue to fight - with or without political support.

"We don't trust political leaders. It's our fight and we'll fight it on our own. We don't need them,
" farmer Jaswant Singh told BBC Punjabi.

Similar scenes have been reported from the neighbouring state of Haryana.

 

What are the reforms?

The reforms seek to loosen rules around sale, pricing and storage of farm produce - rules that
have protected India's farmers from the free market for decades.

Harinder Singh Lakhowal, who is associated with the Punjab unit of the Bharatiya Kisan Union
(Indian Farmers' Union), told BBC Hindi that protests would continue until the government rolls
back the reforms.

"There will be no rail movement and no buses will run in Punjab. There will be traffic jams on
all the highways. There will be 200-250 demonstrations all over Punjab," he said.

 

Where are the protests happening?

The strongest protests are in Punjab and Haryana where the mandi system is strong and
the productivity is high - so only the government has been able to buy that volume of produce
at a set price.

Protests are also taking place in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Dharmendra Singh,
a farmer leader, told BBC Hindi that all districts in western Uttar Pradesh will see huge protests
throughout Friday.

Akhilesh Yadav, the state's former chief minister, told the BBC that the reforms have failed to
assure farmers that the government has their best interest in mind.

 

 

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