Farmers’ leaders sought to step up pressure on Prime Minister Narendra Modi to repeal three agricultural reform laws on Monday by starting a 24-hour relay hunger strike.
Modi’s government is urging the farmers to engage in further talks to end a deadlock which has led to thousands camping on the outskirts of New Delhi for more than three weeks.
The protests have blocked roads connecting the national capital with the neighbouring states of Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, hitting public transport and the supply of fruits and vegetables.
“We are going on a 24-hour relay hunger strike, skipping meals, to press our demands of repealing three agricultural laws,” said Yogendra Yadav, a prominent protest leader.
Leaders called on their supporters to skip one meal on Dec. 23, in solidarity with the protests against new laws, approved by Parliament in September without much debate, which farmers fear could pave the way for ending state procurement of crops, while helping big retail buyers.
Modi has defended the laws saying these would help increase farmers’ income as it would encourage more private investments in cold-stores, procurement and distribution.
More than 30 protesters have died in recent weeks, mainly due to the cold, as they were sleeping in the open with temperatures falling to 4 degree Celsius, farmer leaders said.
Farmers’ leaders also called upon their supporters to boycott Modi’s monthly radio address.
“People should bang their utensils at home on Sunday when Modi speaks up on radio,” said Jagjit Singh Dallewal, president of the Bhartiya Kisan Union.