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Indian farmers block roads, railways

Indian farmers block roads, railways

dpa
New Delhi
Indian farmers blocked roads and railway tracks across the country on Monday, resuming a nationwide protest to mark one year since the legislature passed contentious farm laws that the farmers say threaten their livelihoods.
Tens of thousands of farmers participated in the 10-hour all-India shutdown, which was supported by the country’s major opposition parties, as well as several state governments.
Huge traffic jams formed at various border points around New Delhi, where the farmers have been camping since November, demanding the repeal of the laws.
Offices, educational institutions and markets were closed across various states, but emergency services were allowed to operate, according to the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella organization of 40 farm unions that had called for the shutdown.
The SKM leaders said that the shutdown received strong support in the agriculture-dominated states of Punjab and Haryana, as well as opposition-ruled states like Kerala and West Bengal, where several trains were cancelled owing to the blockades.
“We are ready for a dialogue with the government, but no talks are happening,” prominent farmer leader Rakesh Tikait said.
Farmers have been demanding the withdrawal of the agricultural laws, which the government says will modernize and energize the farming sector, on which more than 50 per cent of India’s population depends for a living.   The farmers fear that laws that aim to ease regulations around the storage and marketing of crops will benefit big corporations and leave them at the mercy of the free market.
The Indian government has said it is open to resuming talks with farmers on the issue after several rounds of talks yielded no breakthrough.
The strike evoked a lukewarm response in other major states like Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh where some markets and commercial establishments remained closed.
“Some political parties are sitting on farmers’ tractors trying to cultivate their barren wasteland. When it comes to farmers issues our government never wanted to clash with farmers, but talk with them,” senior minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi told reporters.

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