By Ahmad Adil
NEW DELHI (AA) - Braving cold weather for over a week, thousands of farmers have camped outside the Indian capital, New Delhi, blocking key highways in a protest against new agriculture laws.
With five rounds of talks between the government and farmers having failed to end the deadlock, the farmers are now threatening to intensify the protests, rattling the government ruled by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
After the new laws were passed in parliament in September this year, farmers from the northern state of Punjab started their protest by blocking trains for two months.
In late November, they started marching toward the Indian capital but were stopped by police. Since then, they are blocking key highways, refusing to leave until the laws are repealed.
On Tuesday, they have called for a mega protest.
In India, over 50% of the workforce is dependent on agriculture with at least 70% of the rural households primarily dependent on the agriculture sector for their livelihood.
The new reforms allow large companies to buy produce from farmers directly. In India, farmers usually sell their produce at local state-registered markets that ensure them a minimum support price, which protects them from price shocks in case of a bad crop year.
Farmers believe that in the absence of state regulators big corporations will exploit them.
The new laws also include promotion of contract farming and lifting the ban on storage of potatoes, onions, and pulses.
The Indian government is trying to resolve the matter through talks. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has termed the laws a "watershed moment" in the history of Indian agriculture.
The next round of talks are due on Dec. 9.
The protests have received support within the country and outside. The opposition parties are rallying in support of the farmers. Interestingly, BJP's oldest ally Shiromani Akali Dal also left the ruling party's alliance over the protests.
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has also voiced support for the farmers, a move that has not gone down well with New Delhi.