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Indian farmers to block train lines today in mass protest


Indian farmers to block train lines today in mass protest

Photo: Reuters/Adnan Abidi

Farmers in the Indian state of Punjab will begin to block train lines today in a demonstration against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three agricultural bills, which parliament approved on Monday.

The passage of the bills sent shockwaves through parliament. The Rajya Sabha, India’s upper house, expelled eight MPs for protesting in the chamber. Cabinet Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal resigned in protest, arguing that the bills, which deregulate agricultural marketing and remove price-floors, would impoverish India’s hundreds of millions of farmers. Her Shiromani Akali Dal party is considering whether it will remain in coalition with the governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

Agricultural demonstrations are spreading throughout the country, mobilised in part by opposition parties like the Indian National Congress. However, the opposition is far too fragmented to effectively oppose the government. Modi’s image as a courageous national leader has also remained intact despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.

An October legislative election in Bihar, a state with a sizable agricultural interest, may act as a bellwether for either support or discontent with Modi’s leadership. At the moment, it appears that the BJP and its coalition allies may keep its electoral hold on the state. If that happens, doubts about the strength of the government will lessen.

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