Thousands of sugarcane farmers stopped traffic, uprooted electricity poles, smashed cars, vandalised the Jantar Mantar and brought the city to its knees on Thursday.
The 30,000 farmers came from western Uttar Pradesh — India’s biggest cane-producing state — to protest a Rs 35 per quintal drop in the price they get for their crop, after a October 21 government ordinance.
Waving cane stalks, they marched to Jantar Mantar from Ramlila Maidan, clogging central Delhi. Twenty “drunk miscreants” lay down on Janpath, stopping traffic. Shops in the Connaught Place area shut down. All roads to Connaught Place and the National Highway 24 were jammed.
“There were so many people, I had to ask a policeman to escort me to my office on Barakhamba Road,” said Rahul Verma (24), a motor parts dealer.
The rally comes as a time when a global sugar shortage has sent prices surging. The row has already delayed crushing at mills across India — the world’s top consumer and second-largest producer of sugarcane.
“We are just demanding our due,” said Virender Singh (62), a farmer from Meerut.
The police were caught unawares by the sheer number of protestors. “We were aware 10,000 people would be participating. But there were so many,” said Shankar Dash, additional commissioner of police.