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Indian farmers block railway tracks, roads on national day of action

NEW DELHI : Railway tracks and highways were blocked across India as farmers launched a national day of action yesterday against reforms deregulating the agriculture sector, upping the stakes after 10 days blockading the capital.

Tens of thousands of farmers have set up barricades on roads into New Delhi since Nov 26, vowing not to move until the laws are repealed in one of the biggest challenges to the Hindu nationalist government.

Authorities put on extra police in Delhi and boosted security in the rest of the country in a bid to head off any trouble.

The farmers were supported in their call for action yesterday by railway workers, truck drivers, teachers and other unions.

In many eastern and western states, protesters blocked railway tracks, roads and halted trains.

"We want to support the farmers' cause," a senior leader from the Communist Party of India in eastern West Bengal state said.

The blockade and strike have taken on a political dimension, with the national ruling Bharatiya Janata Party accusing opposition parties of opportunism by rejecting measures they had called for when in power.

The laws will allow farmers to sell their produce on the open market - including to supermarket chains - instead of through state-run organisations that guarantee a minimum price.

Farmers say the industry will be taken over by major firms that will force prices down. - AFP

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