Railway tracks and highways were blocked across India as farmers launched a national day of action on Tuesday against reforms deregulating the agriculture sector, upping the stakes after 10 days blockading the capital.
Tens of thousands of farmers have set up barricades on roads into New Delhi since November 26, vowing not to move until the laws are repealed in one of the biggest challenges to the Hindu nationalist government since it was re-elected in a landslide in 2019.
“We are worried, extremely worried. Our children will starve, what could be a bigger worry than this?,” farmer Ved Singh told AFP ahead of the strike, echoing fears of his peers that large corporations would lower prices and destroy their livelihoods.
“There would be nothing to eat […] How will we earn money? This is the biggest worry for us.”
Authorities put on extra police in Delhi and boosted security in the rest of the country in a bid to head off any trouble.
The farmers were supported in their call for action on Tuesday by railway workers, truck drivers, teachers and other unions.
In many eastern and western states, protesters blocked railway tracks, roads and halted trains.
“We want to support the farmers’ cause,” a senior leader from the Communist Party of India told AFP in eastern West Bengal state.
The blockade and strike have taken on a political dimension with the national ruling Bharatiya Janata Party accusing opposition parties of opportunism by rejecting measures they had called for when in power.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s Common Man Party said he had been placed “under house arrest” since Monday by Delhi Police, which is controlled by the national government, after he visited the farmers’ blockade site. Police denied the claim.