India’s government has invited protesting farmers for talks, seeking to allay concerns about new laws growers fear could pave the way for the government to stop buying grain at guaranteed prices, leaving them at the mercy of private buyers.
Tens of thousands of people have been taking part in rallies in New Delhi, as they are worried the new laws will put an end to minimum prices guaranteed by the government.
“We are at one of the two national highways that are completely closed coming into Delhi, because tens of thousands of farmers are camped out here with hundreds of vehicles,” Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam, reporting from New Delhi, said.
“Because of this, there is a huge disruption coming into the Indian capital,” she said, adding that hundreds of police and paramilitary personnel with riot gear were deployed nearby.
The protests have intensified since last week when farmers arrived in trucks, buses and tractors at Delhi’s Singhu border with Haryana state and blocked the main northern highway into the capital.
Small growers fear the new laws will make them vulnerable to competition from big business, and that they could eventually lose price supports for staples such as wheat and rice.
On Monday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi resisted calls for the repeal of farm reforms, saying growers were being misled and that new laws would benefit them.