India ministers, farmer unions to hold talks aimed at ending protests

Credit: REUTERS/ANUSHREE FADNAVIS

By Sunil Kataria and Anushree Fadnavis

AMBALA, India, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Agricultural unions in India will hold talks with government ministers on Thursday, a union leader said, after two days of protests by farmers demanding higher prices for their crops.

Security forces have used tear gas and barricades to stop thousands of farmers from marching to the capital New Delhi to press their demands that the government set a minimum price for all their produce to ensure they can sustain their livelihood.

Farmers form an influential voting bloc, and the protests come a few months before national elections in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi is seeking to win a third term.

Sarvan Singh Pandher, general secretary of one of the unions leading the protests, the Punjab Kisan Mazdoor Sangharsh Committee, said the farmers would hold talks with Agriculture Minister Arjun Munda, Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal and Minister of State for Home Affairs Nityanand Rai.

"We are going to the meeting in a completely positive mood and with complete faith that some solution will be found," Pandher told news agency ANI, in which Reuters has a minority stake.

The meeting will be the third between the unions and the government this month. Earlier talks failed to secure a government commitment to provide support prices, which spurred the farmers to go ahead with their "Delhi Chalo", or "Let's go to Delhi", march.

Pandher said that if these talks fail, the farmers should be allowed to protest in peace. In addition to tear gas, authorities have set up barricades some 200 km (124 miles) away from the capital, and deployed riot police and other security forces, to stop the march.

Several unions have threatened to stop trains in several parts of Punjab for four hours on Thursday to protest against the police action.

The protest comes two years after Modi's government, following similar protests, repealed some farm laws and promised to find ways to ensure support prices for all farm produce.

(Writing by Sakshi Dayal; editing by Miral Fahmy)

((Sakshi.Dayal@thomsonreuters.com;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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