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Indian farmers stage second day of mass sit-ins

MASS sit-ins continued across India today as farmers held to the second day of a 72-hour protest over food prices.

Hundreds of thousands joined the rallies jointly called by the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), an alliance formed by over 40 farmers’ unions that led the 13-month farmers’ uprising of 2020-21, and the Joint Platform of Central Trade Unions. Demonstrators are demanding that state governors and chief ministers visit the sit-ins to discuss their demands.

The SKM says promises made to end the 13-month “siege” of Delhi in December 2021 have been broken, both by federal and state governments. It says farmers are united behind a demand that states guarantee a price for crops of “C2+50 per cent,” with C2 being a calculation of input and land rent costs.

Unions are calling for the repeal of four labour codes introduced by the Narendra Modi government in 2019-20, supposedly to consolidate and streamline 29 separate pieces of legislation referring to workers’ rights. 

The International Labour Organisation and Indian unions have opposed the new codes, which make it easier for employers of up to 300 workers to fire and rehire at will, facilitate easier outsourcing and place new hurdles before unions organising strike action, with longer notice periods (now 14 days) and shorter strike mandates after a ballot (60 days).

They also say the codes weaken worker protections, for example by removing the legal obligation of an employer to cover wages if a contractor defaults on these.

The sit-ins are due to end tomorrow afternoon.

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