Narendra Modi will abandon controversial agricultural market reforms that have sparked yearlong protests from India’s farmers, one of the biggest challenges to his power.
On Friday, India’s Prime Minister reaffirmed his belief that the three new laws will benefit farmers in the long run, giving them access to more buyers for their crops.
But after 14 big months sit-in protest on the highway of farmers who represent a politically influential constituency in India, Modi added that his government decided to repeal the laws during the winter session of parliament .
“I urge the farmers to return home to their families and start afresh,” Modi said.
The unexpected escalation to such a major reform comes as Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party prepares for state elections in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, agrarian states where Resistance for the law has been drastic.
Farmers say reversal reflects BJP’s political anxiety after losing the West Bengal state election in May during a devastating second wave of Covid-19.
“The government withdrew the law for fear of losing the elections,” said Jaskarn Bawa, an 18-year-old protester whose family farmed five acres of land in Punjab. “BJP already routing in West Bengal and they know a similar fate awaits them across the country. “
Political analysts say the U-turn may not assuage farmers’ intense anger at the BJP, which has described them as terrorists and separatists for opposing the reforms.
“It is clear that this decision was made with electoral considerations, but it is not clear that a failure for reform will turn into a victory at the ballot box because of the hardships experienced by the farmers, ‘ said Gilles Vernier, a political science professor. at Ashoka University.
The new laws have removed a ban on private companies buying crops directly from growers, which Modi said would give farmers more freedom in transactions and boost their incomes.
But farmers fear the legislation will pave the way for the state to stop buying grain at fixed prices, ultimately leaving them in the hands of powerful corporations.
Farmers bowed after Modi’s pledge to recovery, expressing tired relief at the end of the impasse, although protest leaders said they would not disperse until the abolition process was complete. .
“What’s there to cheer for?” Jagtar Singh, 60 years old, who is cultivating 10 acres of land in Punjab asked. “The farm law was wrong so he got them back. Who will pay for the losses we have suffered over the past 14 months? ”
More than 600 protesters have died from heat, cold and exhaustion during last year’s protests, while four others were killed when a car was owned by the son of India’s interior minister. crash into them.
Abandoning the reforms will likely upset Modi’s support base, as it erodes his image as a strong man unable to withstand pressure from critics.
“It will not be seen as a gesture of support to the farmers but as a retreat from a major policy reform that they made a firm promise not to back down,” Vernier said. .
Farm law was push through Congress on a voice vote last year in the first wave of the pandemic, without debate or announcement. Opposition parties criticized the way the law was passed and called for closer monitoring and public consultation on policies affecting the livelihoods of millions.