By Haris Hussnain | Contributor
The Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a repeal of three controversial farming laws after large-scale protests over the last year. Since last November Delhi’s borders have been filled with protesters, facing deadly conditions of heat, cold weather and COVID-19.
India’s previous laws on produce marketing concerned the storage and pricing of produce and the regulations of its sale, and had protected farmers for decades. Most farmers sell their produce in government owned markets, but under the new laws farmers could sell their procude directly to supermarket chains, agricultural businesses and online grocers. The new laws also removed minimum support prices – a government controlled price for produce – something protesters argued had kept farmers going and without which farmers would struggle to survive. The protesters rejected the new laws, arguing they wouldn’t benefit farmers, since the prices and sale of produce would be dictated by private business.
Another controversial aspect of the laws was that they allowed more privatisation of farming, hurting the income of farmers in India. Despite this, the Prime Minister and his ministers had insisted that the laws were in place to benefit famers and that taking these laws back was not a question.
Following the U-turn, the unions of farmers are viewing the repeal as a victory. However, the states of Punjab and Uttar Pradesh both have a huge base of farmers, and experts suggest this may have forced the decision on these farming laws, with upcoming state elections. Prime Minister Modi has stated that the farm laws were meant to strengthen the small farmers. He says that “despite several attempts to explain to the farmers we have failed on the occasion of Guru Parab, the government has decided to repeal three farm laws”.
Raj Singh Chaudery is a protester and a farmer. He said that “we have no faith in a verbal promise. Unless we see it in writing that the laws have actually been repealed”. With protests continuing it is clear that opposition to removing protections on farmers in India will remain strong.
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