Protests against controversial new agricultural laws in India continue to grow – but the country’s prime minister refuses to step down.
Demonstrations have taken place across India and have now spread to other cities around the world, including the UK, the Netherlands and Canada.
Farmers say the three federal laws deregulating crop prices will reduce their revenues by dismantling the system that guarantees them an income and leaves them vulnerable to large private businesses.
Major roads around the capital New Delhi have been closed in recent weeks as thousands of farmers camp and more from across India come to the city to force a U-turn.
Police put up barricades to keep peasants from entering the town in large numbers, and there was one earlier this week nationwide strike about the problem.
At least 30 farmers’ unions are protesting the changes, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi is holding on.
The government argues that the laws will remove middlemen and improve farmers’ incomes as they will have a wider market to sell to.
Mr Modi said on Saturday the changes would help “invest in agriculture and benefit farmers”.
“The aim of all government reforms is to promote the prosperity of farmers,” he said at the annual meeting of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
Piyush Goyal, the trade minister, said the government was determined to double farmers’ incomes, claiming the protests were “infiltrated by leftists and Maoists”.
Talks between the government and the unions have so far not found a solution and opposition groups say the demonstrations will intensify.
“Hundreds of farmers are going to march into New Delhi with a tractor cart to voice our complaints about the new laws,” said Kamal Preet Singh Pannu, a leader of the Sanyukta Kisan Andolan group.
“”[The] The government wants to discredit and smash our movement, but we will continue to protest peacefully, “he said.
In Britain, thousands gathered in convoys from many cities in the north and the Midlands on Saturday and went to the Indian High Commission in Birmingham.
The Kisaan rally caused serious congestion in one of England’s second largest cities. Police warned people to keep social distancing and complained that some had illegally set up “smoking devices”.
Last weekend in London there were also numerous protests in the center of the capital, with signs saying “No Farmers No Food” and others criticizing Prime Minister Modi.
All major political parties of the Indian opposition have spoken out in favor of the strike.
Dozens of British MPs, led by Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi of the Labor Party, also support the farmers and ask Foreign Minister Dominic Raab to raise the matter with Delhi.
Canadian leader Justin Trudeau has also spoken out, describing the situation as “worrying” and defending farmers’ right to protest.