India’s main opposition party has pressed the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to call a special parliamentary session to withdraw controversial agricultural reform laws that have sparked massive protest across the country over the past weeks.
“I want to tell the PM that these farmers are not going to go back home until these farm laws are repealed. The government should convene a joint session of Parliament and take back these laws. Opposition parties stand with farmers and laborers,” Rahul Gandhi, a senior leader from the opposition Congress Party, said of the ongoing protest.
According to Press TV, Gandhi made the remarks on Thursday after handing Indian President Ram Nath Kovind a copy of a petition that he said had attracted 20 million signatures online against the new laws.
The opposition leader also piled up pressure on the premier by accusing his government of watching the interests of a specific class of businessmen and capitalists.
“The prime minister wants to help two, three business people” by introducing the farm laws, Gandhi said.
The Indian farmers, mainly from the Sikh-dominated Punjab and neighboring Haryana, have blocked highways into New Delhi for the past three weeks.
The farmers, many in their sixties or above, have been braving harsh winter in the north to camp out in the open with their tractors and trailers parked bumper to bumper.
More than 30 protesters have died in recent weeks, mainly due to the cold with temperatures falling to 4 degree Celsius.
On Sunday, Modi made a surprise visit to a historic Sikh temple in New Delhi to soothe the situation. But people want him to also visit the site of a protest on the suburbs of New Delhi, where the farmers have set up makeshift camps.
In September, Modi’s government passed three laws that it says are meant to overhaul procurement procedures and grant farmers more options to sell their products.
The farmers say the proposed amendments will create an opportunity for large private companies to enter and exploit the entire agriculture sector.
Modi has invited the farmers for more talks after several rounds of negotiation failed to break the standoff.