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Police shut major roads into Delhi and order curfew amid farmer protests

Police shut major roads into Delhi and order curfew amid farmer protests

Police in India have shut down major roads connecting New Delhi to the neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh in a bid to stop protesting farmers from marching towards the capital.

While smaller in scale, the threat of farmer protests brought back memories of a major demonstration three years ago that turned deadly before it forced the government to repeal a set of important reforms.

Up to 20,000 farmers are expected to march to the city on Tuesday to press for their demand for fair prices for the crops they produce. They say the government promised to guarantee a minimum price for crops, known as the minimum support price, in 2021 but has yet to deliver.

Television footage showed farmers in tractors driving towards Delhi from the northern Indian breadbasket states of Punjab and Haryana while authorities fortified city borders with concrete blocks, road spike barriers and barbed wires in a bid to prevent entry of vehicles.

"As many as 1,000 to 1,500 Delhi Police personnel will be deployed in each of these border areas. However, the pattern of deployment and the number of personnel will change as per the situation in these areas," police sources told NDTV.

The authorities have also imposed prohibitory curfew orders across Delhi, banning the unauthorised assembly of five or more people across the city for a month until at least 12 March.

Indian farmers shout slogans on the Delhi link road leading to the Delhi Noida Border as they protest in Delhi Noida Border in Uttar Pradesh, India, 08 February 2024 (EPA)
Indian farmers shout slogans on the Delhi link road leading to the Delhi Noida Border as they protest in Delhi Noida Border in Uttar Pradesh, India, 08 February 2024 (EPA)
Indian soldiers stand near cranes to deal with the farmers’ tractors near the Delhi Noida Border, New Delhi, India, 08 February 2024 (EPA)
Indian soldiers stand near cranes to deal with the farmers’ tractors near the Delhi Noida Border, New Delhi, India, 08 February 2024 (EPA)

"We will move peacefully and our objective is that the government listen to our demands," Sarvan Singh Pandher, general secretary of Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, a farmers’ group, told news agency ANI.

With more than 200 farmers’ unions expected to participate in the protest, the march comes just months before national elections in India, in which prime minister Narendra Modi is widely expected to win a third term.

India’s millions of farmers form an influential voting bloc and at least three junior ministers from the agriculture, home and commerce ministries were expected to meet farmer leaders on Monday to discuss their demands, reported India Today.

The government announces support prices for more than 20 crops each year to set a benchmark, but state agencies buy only rice and wheat at the support level, which benefits only about six per cent of farmers who raise those two crops.

In 2021, when Mr Modi’s administration repealed the farm laws after a year-long protest, the government said it would set up a panel of growers and government officials to find ways to ensure support prices for all farm produce.

Farmers accuse the government of going slow on that promise.

Additional reporting by agencies