Tens of thousands of Indian farmers and rural workers have marched to the Indian parliament in the capital, New Delhi, in a protest against soaring operating costs and plunging produce prices.
Friday’s protests, which are in response to a situation that has reportedly brought misery to many Indians, represent one of the biggest displays of frustration with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Mr. Mr. Modi’s Hindu nationalist BJP government faces a tough general election due by May next year.
India’s 263 million farmers make up an important voting bloc.
“Farmers have been routinely committing suicide,” said Yogendra Yadav, who leads a farmers’ group.
“It’s a shame that the government doesn’t have any time for those who feed us,” Mr. Yadav told Reuters.
Low food prices, export controls, anti-inflation policies that keep rural incomes low and a broad shift from subsidies to investment spending have all infuriated and demoralized farmers.
Agriculture contributes about fifteen percent to India’s 2.6 trillion-Dollar economy, Asia’s third-largest, but employs nearly half of its 1.3 billion people.
Farmers from more than 200 groups began gathering in New Delhi on Thursday. They are demanding that the government call a special session of parliament to discuss the crisis in the countryside.
The discontent in the countryside, where seventy percent of Indians live, could erode support for Modi’s ruling party, which won India’s biggest parliamentary mandate in three decades in the last general election in 2014.