Indian farmers start hunger strike to pressure Modi on reforms

by Reuters
Monday, 21 December 2020 09:34 GMT

A farmer attends a protest against the newly passed farm bills at Singhu border near New Delhi, India, December 14, 2020. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi

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Indian farmers protesting against agricultural reforms they say threaten their livelihoods began a one-day hunger strike after weeks of demonstrations

By Manoj Kumar

Dec 21 (Reuters) - Farmers leaders sought to step up pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal three agricultural reform laws on Monday by starting a 24-hour relay hunger strike.

Modi's government is urging the farmers to engage in further talks to end a deadlock which has led to thousands camping on the outskirts of New Delhi for more than three weeks.

The protests have blocked roads connecting the national capital with neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, hitting public transport and the supply of fruit and vegetables.

"We are going on a 24-hour relay hunger strike, skipping meals, to press our demands of repealing three agricultural laws," Yogendra Yadav, a prominent protest leader, said.

Leaders called on their supporters to skip one meal on Dec. 23, in solidarity with the protests against new laws, approved by parliament in September without much debate, which farmers fear could pave the way for ending state procurement of crops, while helping big retail buyers.

Modi has defended the laws saying these would help increase farmers income as it would encourage more private investments in cold-stores, procurement and distribution.

More than 30 protesters have died in recent weeks, mainly due to the cold as they were sleeping in the open with temperatures falling to 4 degree Celsius, farmer leaders said.

Farmers leaders also called upon their supporters to boycott Modi's monthly radio address.

"People should bang their utensils at home on Sunday when Modi speaks up on radio," Jagjit Singh Dallewal, president of the Bharti Kisan Union, said. (Additional reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Alexander Smith)