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India farmers dispersed by police during protest of agricultural reform bills
Fajrul_Falah / Pixabay
India farmers dispersed by police during protest of agricultural reform bills

Thousands of farmers descended on India’s capital Friday to protest legislation passed in September that liberalizes the agricultural goods market.

The legislation allows farmers to sell their produce anywhere instead of in state-mandated markets, changes the conditions under which the government may regulate the market in essential goods, and provides a framework under which farmers and sponsors can enter into contracts for agricultural goods. The ostensible goal of the three bills is to overhaul the markets for farm goods and empower small farmers to get better prices for their produce.

However, this week many farmers gathered in Delhi to protest the legislation. They claim that the bills go too far in deregulating the agricultural markets by leaving small farmers vulnerable to large agricultural firms because they lack the leverage to negotiate with those firms meaningfully. The vast majority of India’s farmers own less than five acres of land and cannot realistically look beyond their immediate local markets for better deals.

The farmers were initially met outside the capital by police who established roadblocks and used tear gas and water cannons against the marchers. After the clashes, talks with the protest’s leadership have led to a deal that will allow the protestors to rally within the city.