Indian Prime Minister Modi to repeal controversial farm laws after more than a year of protests
“Today I came to tell you, the whole country, that we have decided to withdraw the three agricultural laws,” Modi said in a speech to the nation, adding that the process would be completed in a parliamentary session. later this month.
Modi recognized the importance of farmers and the challenges they faced. He said it was a priority issue for his ruling party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
“In this great campaign to improve the condition of farmers, three agricultural laws have been introduced in the country,” Modi said.
“This law was passed with good intentions”, he continued, adding that despite its efforts, the government could not “make (the farmers) understand the importance of agricultural laws”.
Jai Kisan Andolan Farmer Group National Vice President Deepak Lamba said Modi’s announcement “can be seen as a huge victory for farmers,” but added that the government had repealed the laws for ” political compulsions “.
“The government has taken this step, keeping in mind the upcoming (state) elections,” he said.
In India, agriculture is a central political issue and the protests have posed a unique challenge to the BJP.
Seven Indian states will hold elections early next year to determine whether Modi’s BJP will retain power. His ruling party currently governs six of the seven states, including predominantly agricultural Uttar Pradesh.
Farmers are the largest voting bloc in the country, and the agricultural sector supports around 58% of India’s 1.3 billion citizens. Angry farmers could see Modi lose a significant number of votes.
Modi’s announcement came on Gur Purab, the birthday of the founder of the Sikh faith, Guru Nanak. Sikhism is the dominant religion in the northern state of Punjab, which is ruled by the opposition Congress Party and is considered India’s breadbasket for its great agricultural strength.
However, some farmer groups have vowed to keep the pressure on.
“The protests will not be withdrawn immediately,” Indian Farmers Union leader Rakesh Tikait wrote on Twitter.
“We will wait until the day agricultural laws are repealed in Parliament.”
Farmer group Samyukt Kisan Morcha hailed the repeal of what they described as “black anti-farmer and pro-business laws” in a statement Friday, but said it would also wait until the announcement takes effect in Parliament.
“If that happens, it will be a historic victory for the one-year farmers’ struggle in India,” the group said.
For more than a year, Indian farmers have fought against the three laws, which they say leave them open for exploitation by big business and could destroy their livelihoods. The laws, which were passed last September, have relaxed the rules around the sale and pricing of produce that have protected farmers from an unregulated free market for decades.
Under previous laws, farmers had to auction their produce to their state’s Farm Commodity Market Committee, where they were guaranteed to receive at least the minimum price agreed to by the government. There were restrictions on who could buy, and prices were capped for essentials.
The new laws dismantled this structure, instead allowing farmers to sell their produce to anyone for any price. The government said the reforms were needed to modernize the country’s agricultural industry, but many farmers argued that they would allow big companies to lower prices.
In mid-January, the Indian Supreme Court temporarily suspended the laws. But Modi has failed to quell the protests, with some farmers vowing not to leave until the laws are completely repealed.