India PM Narendra Modi repeals controversial farm laws

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Three controversial laws were rescinded by farmers.

Following a year’s worth of protests, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the abrogation of three farm laws.

Since last November, Delhi had seen thousands of farmers camp at its borders. Many died as a result of heat, cold or Covid.

Farmers claim that the law will permit private farmers to enter their fields, which will reduce their income.

Surprise announcement Friday marks a significant U-turn, as the government has not been proactive in talking to farmers over recent months.

The ministers under Mr Modi insist that these laws are beneficial for farmers and it is not possible to take them back.

The victory is being seen by farm unions as an enormous win. Experts believe that the decision may be influenced by the forthcoming state elections in Punjab or Uttar Pradesh, which both have large numbers of farmers.

This announcement was made Friday morning as Sikhs, who are the predominant community in Punjab, were celebrating Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary.

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Modi stated that the farm laws are meant to help small farmers in his nationally televised speech. “But we failed to make the benefits clear to farmers despite many attempts,” he said. Guru Purab is the occasion when the government will repeal three of the farm laws,” he stated.

How has it been received?

Punjabi and Haryana farmers are celebrating, waving flags of victory, and handing out sweets. They insist that the battle isn’t over.

“We don’t have faith in any verbal promise. “Unless we can see in writing that these laws have been repealed,” Raj Singh Chaudhary (a 99-year old protester) told Salman Ravi of the BBC.

Chaudhary is one of hundreds who strike at Delhi-Ghazipur for nearly a full year.

Rakesh Tikait, a respected farmer leader said the same. The protest would be stopped only when the laws have been repealed at the winter session.

Unsuccessful protestors claimed that the government needed to make them additional promises about guaranteed prices in return for their crops.

Political observers, as well as people who support or oppose the laws, were stunned by the announcement. Many tweeted that it was a major victory for farmers and a significant climbdown for Modi.

Rahul Gandhi, the Congress Party leader, praised Congress for their decision and called it “a victory against injustice”. Mamata Banerjee was the Chief Minister of West Bengal and took to Twitter to thank farmers and to congratulate them.

External sites are not under the control of BBC.Original tweet available on Twitter

BJP members stated that repealing the laws did not have anything to do with elections, and they were taken as a way to put an end to protests. They didn’t say whether plans were in place to bring the laws back in another format.

Narendra Modi’s move to abolish the controversial farm laws was both a political and strategic decision. It also reflects the government’s inexplicable haste.

These laws had caused a massive protest wave in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, and were a serious challenge for Modi. These protests had mobilized farmers and civil society from the Sikh-majority Punjab, and they spread to Uttar Pradesh and other states that will be seeing key elections in early 2014.

Although the BJP had not expected such a backlash, it has tried to calm down the Sikhs. Its executive meeting in January was mostly devoted to calming the sentiments of the community. This included increasing crop budget and crop prices, opening a historical corridor that leads to Sikhism’s most sacred shrines in Pakistan, as well as a new probe into the 1984 anti-Sikh riots at Delhi.

It was clear that the government was becoming anxious about growing Sikh alienation and the laws. In Punjab, strategically borderland state, history holds some grim lessons: A violent separatist movement that erupted in 1980s due to similar alienation of the community was fuelled.

Modi is hoping to win back the trust of farmers and Sikhs by repealing these laws. The BJP would have a better chance of winning in the next election.

It is a good reminder that even those who voted for the reforms were often poor economic citizens.

Why did the repeal happen?

Despite repeated government appeals to stop their protest, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha was unable to stop its activities.

Through the harsh winters and hot summer months, farmers continued blocking motorways from Delhi. They even suffered deadly Covid wave effects. Numerous farmers demanded strikes throughout the country.

Initial engagement with the government was made by offering to suspend laws for two years. The government rejected the farmers’ offers and retreated. They preferred to remain neutral and wait.

Two things have changed over the past few months.

The son of a federal minister drove his vehicle into a group protesting farmers in Lakhimpur, Uttar Pradesh, in October. The allegation was denied by the man, and he was eventually arrested. He was arrested, though he denied the allegation. The incident sparked anger across the country.

Second, the Bharatiya Janata Party of PM Modi (BJP), is opposing strong regional parties at the upcoming election in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Uttarakhand. The government also knows that angry farmers could hurt the BJP’s chances to win the critical polls.

Was there anything the laws offered?

Together, these changes resulted in loosening rules about the sale, pricing, storage, and distribution of agricultural produce. These rules have helped protect Indian farmers from being left out on the market.

The biggest change was the ability for farmers to directly sell their produce to other private parties, such as supermarket chains, online grocers and agricultural businesses. Most Indian farmers currently sell the majority of their produce at government-controlled wholesale markets or mandis at assured floor prices (also known as minimum support price or MSP).

They also allowed private buyers to hoard essential commodities for future sales, which only government-authorised agents could do earlier; and they outlined rules for contract farming, where farmers tailor their production to suit a specific buyer’s demand.

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Reforms provided farmers with the opportunity to trade outside of this system, at least in theory. Protesters argued that the laws would make farmers less productive and give private companies more control over their lives. Many farmers depend on the MSP to keep them afloat, and they will not be able to survive without it.

According to them, India’s rigid laws on the sale and usage of land for agriculture and its high-subsidy policies had been protecting farmers against market forces for many decades. There was no reason for India to alter these rules.

However, the government claimed that farming should be profitable for all farmers. The new laws will help achieve this goal.


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