Protesting Indian farmers to call in reinforcements during harvest season

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Indian farmers have drawn up plans to continue their protests during the harvest season from March by bringing reinforcements from thousands of villages, a top union official said on Monday.

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“We have worked out detailed plans to ensure that our movement does not lose steam even during the next harvest season when farmers will gather their wheat and other winter crops,” Rakesh Tikait, a prominent leader of Bharatiya Kisan Union, one of the largest farmers’ unions, told Reuters in an interview.

Tens of thousands of angry farmers have encircled the capital New Delhi to put pressure on the government to repeal three agricultural laws introduced in September.

The government says the new laws will open up fresh opportunities to farmers by allowing them to directly sell produce to private buyers like large retailers.

Protesters say the laws benefit large private buyers at the expense of growers.

“We have prepared a set of rota for every village to ensure that a new batch of farmers comes to the protest sites every time a group from here leaves for villages to collect crops,” said Tikait, who has emerged as a prominent leader of the biggest farmers’ protest in decades.

“We can’t lose sight of the movement that will not end until the government accepts our three demands,” he said.

To ensure that the deadlock ends, the government must roll back the laws, make it mandatory for buyers to pay state-set guaranteed prices and take back police cases filed against protesting growers, Tikait said.

“Farmers are not going to budge if the government does not concede to the three core demands. We have other concerns too, but those issues can be looked into by appointing a committee,” he said.

Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi again urged farmers to end their protest.

Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj and Rajendra Jadhav; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani and Toby Chopra