Indian police used tear gas and detained some farmers who tried to break barricades blocking their way to New Delhi on Tuesday to demand guaranteed crop prices in a repeat of 2021 protests, when they camped on the capital’s outskirts for more than a year.
Tear gas canisters were dropped on the protesting farmers from a drone at one of the border points that leads to New Delhi, where tens of thousands of farmers are heading on tractors and trucks.
Police sealed multiple entry points into the city by erecting barriers of barbed wire, spikes and cement blocks.
Large gatherings in the capital were banned and internet services were suspended in some districts of neighbouring Haryana state.
The renewed protests come more than two years after Prime Minister Narendra Modi withdrew controversial agriculture laws that had triggered the protests in which tens of thousands of farmers camped outside the capital throughout a harsh winter and a devastating Covid-19 surge.
Farmers, who began their march from northern Haryana and Punjab states, are asking for a guaranteed minimum support price for all farm produce.
The government protects agricultural producers against any sharp fall in farm prices by announcing a minimum purchase price on certain essential crops at the beginning of the sowing season, taking into account the cost of production.
Farmers are also pressing the government to meet its promise to double their income.
The withdrawal of the agricultural laws in November 2021 was seen as a major retreat by the Modi government.
The government at that time said it would set up a panel of farmers and government officials to find ways to ensure support prices for all farm produce. Multiple meetings since then have made no progress.
The march comes just months before national elections in India, in which Mr Modi is widely expected to win a third term.
“We do not want to break any barricades. We want resolution of our issues through dialogue. But if they (the government) do nothing then what will we do? It is our compulsion,” Sarwan Singh Pandher, a leader of one of the farmers’ groups, told reporters on Tuesday.
He said talks between farm leaders and government ministers on Monday had failed to produce any consensus on their key demands and that the government had refused to make a decision.
Farmers form the most influential voting bloc in India and politicians have long considered it unwise to alienate them.
Some farmer and trade unions have also announced a countrywide rural strike on Friday.