Indian police fire tear gas and water cannons to halt farmers from marching to New Delhi. The protesters are pressing for government help including higher support prices for agricultural goods, free electricity for their farms and waivers on loans.

Over 50,000 farmers from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a top producer of wheat and cane, blocked part of the main highway to the capital.
Over 50,000 farmers from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a top producer of wheat and cane, blocked part of the main highway to the capital. (AFP)

Indian police on Tuesday fired tear gas and water cannons to halt a march by thousands of protesting farmers heading for the capital, New Delhi, to demand better prices for their produce.

Reeling from a crash in commodity prices, more than 50,000 farmers from the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, a top producer of wheat and cane, blocked part of the main highway to the capital.

They also sought loan waivers, cheaper power and tougher action to get sugar mills to pay dues owed for their cane, as discontent in rural areas turns to anger against Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who faces tough general elections next year.

TV broadcast images of angry farmers clashing with police and driving their tractors into security barriers, in a protest that disrupted rush-hour traffic.

Some farmers were wounded when police fired tear gas and water cannons to keep protesters from breaking through barricades to reach New Delhi.

The farmers said they rejected the government's assurances, saying they will continue protests, Hindustan Times reported. 

Police 'brutally beat up' farmers

Farmers had started trickling into the city late on Monday, prompting authorities to bar gatherings of more than four people.

The protesters reached the Delhi outer limits on foot, in buses and on tractor trailers under the banner of Bhartiya Kisan Union (Indian Farmers Union), a farmers group critical of Modi's government.

The government has allowed police to "brutally beat up" the farmers, said the opposition Congress party, which ruled India for most of its 70 years since independence from Britain, before losing power to Modi's right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party.

Trouble for Modi

Modi's rural woes have been worsened by a failure to deliver on a promise of tens of millions of jobs for young people that helped him win the largest mandate in three decades in 2014. 

He remains personally popular according to several surveys, but after four years in power support for his party has been eroded by voter concerns about jobs and the spike in fuel prices. 

Source: TRTWorld and agencies