Higher guaranteed price fails to mollify protesting grain growers

·2-min read

By Mayank Bhardwaj

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Protesting Indian farmers camped outside New Delhi said on Thursday the government's decision to raise state-mandated prices for summer crops such as rice was not enough to end their sit-in against new agricultural legislation.

Tens of thousands of farmers, angry over reform measures initiated last year by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, have camped out for six months on the outskirts of the Indian capital, New Delhi, demanding a repeal of the laws.

On Wednesday, Modi's administration raised the price at which the government will buy new-season common rice variety from local farmers by 3.9%, but protesters said the hike was too little to cover the cost of cultivation.

"The government has tried to project it as a major step towards farmers' welfare, but the truth is that the nominal hike does no good to us," said Randeep Singh, a farmers' leader. "Our protest will continue until the government rolls back the anti-farmer laws."

Farmers say the laws threaten their livelihood and favour large private retailers who, prior to the new laws, were not permitted to procure farm goods outside government-regulated wholesale grain markets.

The government says the laws, introduced in September 2020, will unshackle farmers from having to sell their produce only at regulated wholesale markets.

It argues farmers will gain if large traders, retailers and food processors can buy directly from producers.

Despite a devastating second wave of COVID-19 infections in India, farmers have remained steadfast in their decision to extend their protest.

Growers have also reached out to opposition parties for support to repeal the laws.

On Wednesday, a farmers' delegation led by top farm union leaders Rakesh Tikait and Yudhvir Singh met Mamata Banerjee, chief minister of West Bengal state in India's east.

Banerjee, a combative politician, last month trounced Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party in a fiercely fought state assembly election.

(Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Richard Chang)

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