Indian farmers on day-long hunger strike as protests intensify

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India

Indian farmers are holding a day-long hunger strike to put pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to repeal a set of new farm laws passed recently.

Tens of thousands of farmers across India began their hunger strike at 8am on Monday and will end it at 5pm, as farmers’ unions intensified their agitation for the 19th day.

The new laws seek to deregulate India’s enormous agriculture sector by allowing farmers to sell their produce to private buyers beyond government-run wholesale markets, where farmers are assured a minimum price for their crops.

But the farmers say the laws threaten their livelihoods and will only benefit big corporations, leaving growers at the mercy of a free market.

This is the second time in two weeks the farmers have called for nationwide protests, asking people to hold sit-ins outside district offices across the country.

The protests are being spearheaded by thousands of farmers camping outside the Indian capital, New Delhi, and blocking several highways leading to the city.

Agriculture contributes nearly 15 percent to India’s $2.9-trillion economy and employs more than half of the country’s 1.4 billion people.