(Bloomberg) — India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to protesting farmers to call off their agitation and rejoin talks while reiterating his government’s commitment to continue purchasing crops at an administered price.
Tens of thousands of farmers have been camping at Delhi’s borders since November in protest against three agriculture laws that they say will hurt farm incomes and leave them vulnerable to big corporations. They have rejected the government’s offer to suspend the reforms for 18 months, as well as a mediation process established by the Supreme Court.
“We should give these agriculture reforms a chance,” Modi told to lawmakers in Parliament on Monday referring the laws that allow private businesses to enter the agriculture sector. “We are urging those involved in agitation to end protests.”
The government has toughened its stance against the protesters after violent clashes broke out last month. Authorities fortified Delhi’s borders with concrete barricades, concertina wire and long metal spikes at key sites in addition to cutting water, phone and internet. On Saturday, farmers blocked highways across the country in defiance of the government’s internet and phone blackout.
Modi on Monday also criticized those supporting the protests, saying a new “breed” of agitators have emerged who cannot live without a tumult and the country should be beware of them. Celebrities including pop star Rihanna and environmental campaigner Greta Thunberg have supported India’s farmers agitation through tweets.
Modi’s administration has defended the laws, saying they will eliminate cartels that exploited farmers and would ultimately boost incomes by making the agricultural sector more competitive. The legislation was approved in parliament, which is dominated by the ruling party and its allies.
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