Farmers' march on Delhi as opposition targets Modi
06 September 2018
Thousands of farmers and labourers staged protest against what they called the anti-people policies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government in New Delhi on Wednesday as opposition parties stepped up anti-government shows ahead of key elections.
They are protesting a fall in commodity prices that have fallen from record highs amidst stagnant wages, even as rising fuel prices continue to dent Modi’s popularity.
Opposition is trying to whip up discontent in rural areas, which home to about two-thirds of India’s 1.3 billion population, in order to secure a majority in the coming elections and deny Modi a second term.
Protesters, wearing red caps and waving red flags, marched towards Parliament Street in the heart of the capital, blocking traffic in many parts of central Delhi.
Modi’s policies are generally seen in rural areas as promoting jobless growth as the government has failed to deliver on the election promise of millions of new jobs for the young.
Opposition is now clinging to that vow as they try to win over the rural votes, especially with elections due in three major states this year.
The opposition-sponsored protesters are demanding more jobs, better wages, better prices for farm produce, end to privatisation, a halt to labour law changes, among others, as the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which led the protest near parliament, said in a Tweet.
Only an alliance of India’s working class and its peasants could help defeat a “fascistic onslaught”, said one of the party’s leaders, Surjya Kanta Mishra.
The Congress party said it supported the “fight back” by farmers and that it is with other opposition parties in taking on the prime minister.
Agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh said on Twitter that the government was putting farmers first and working on initiatives such as easy credit to help meet Modi’s target of doubling their income by 2022.
The government had in July sharply hiked support prices for summer crops, including rice, after low, single-digit hikes during the previous few years.
Wednesday’s protesters, who arrived in buses and trains from far off places across the nation, seemed not to agree with government’s efforts.