Hundreds of vehicles travelled in convoy from Surrey to downtown Vancouver on Wednesday to support farmers in India who are protesting government policy changes.
Organized by the B.C. Gurdwara Council, the convoy left Strawberry Hill at 12:45 p.m. and arrived by mid afternoon near the Indian consulate on Howe Street.
The rally came as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi started talks with dozens of farm leaders in New Delhi to try and end the widespread demonstrations that have erupted against the imposition of new agricultural laws.
Tens of thousands of agricultural workers from across India have gathered on the outskirts of the capital New Delhi for the last few days, demanding that the Modi administration roll back three new laws that they say will hurt their incomes and make farming in India harder.
The new laws seek to remove restrictions on marketing farm products and allow cultivators to engage with private companies to sell their crops, which farmers fear will prompt the government to stop making direct purchases at minimum state-set prices.
“The government is dragging its feet because it feels this is a political agitation rather than issue-based agitation and it is being sponsored by the opposition to embarrass the government,” said Arati Jerath, a New Delhi-based author and political analyst. But for farmers from Punjab and Haryana, it’s a “genuine issue” that’s forcing them to come to the streets, she added.
Last week local police used water cannons and tear gas to prevent the marchers from entering the capital. Various border entry points were covered in concertina wire. But as the protests refused to simmer down the government softened its stand. Over the weekend, Modi also defended the new laws and said they would bring prosperity to millions of farmers.
About 800 million of India’s 1.3 billion population depend directly or indirectly on agriculture, which accounts for 16 per cent of its $2.8 trillion economy. India is the world’s top grower of cotton, the second-biggest producer of wheat, rice and sugar, and the largest importer of palm oil.
with files from Bloomberg