efe-epaBy Shubhomoy Chatterjee Patna/New Delhi

Thousands of farmers in India on Friday held nationwide demonstrations and blocked roads and railway tracks in protest against controversial new agriculture laws that allow big retailers to procure farm products directly from growers.

The government has defended the reform measures approved by the parliament on Sunday, saying these will pave the way for private investment to boost India's agriculture sector, which accounts for some 15 percent of the country's economy.