A farmer cuts an Irishman in Medak district, near Hyderabad, India on November 11, 2021.
Noah Seelam | AFP | Getty Images
India will repeal three laws against which farmers have been protesting since last year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced on Friday.
“Today, I am here to tell you, and the whole country, that we have decided to repeal, repeal, the three agricultural laws,” Modi said, according to a CNBC translation of his remarks in Hindi.
He added that the government will start the constitutional process in the parliament at the end of this month to repeal the laws. Modi also urged protesters to return home in their address to the nation.
The Indian parliament passed these laws in September 2020. The reforms would have broken some of the rules that have protected India’s farmers for decades and subjected them to unhindered free market mechanisms where competition would be high.
Agriculture is the main source of livelihood for about half of India’s 1.3 billion population but accounts for only about 15% of GDP. Economists generally agree that India’s agricultural sector needs reforms, in part to promote faster growth and deploy more sustainable use of scarce resources like water.
But farm reform policies also tend to be politically sensitive in nature.
Indian farmers have struggled for years due to low crop prices, rising costs, demonetisation and widespread droughts although there have been generous government subsidies and income tax exemptions. Many farmers have been indebted and this has led to an increase in peasant suicides in recent years.
Since last year, the Indian government has repeatedly met with farmers ’representatives to try to resolve their concerns, but the negotiations have not caused any success.
Thousands of farmers have been protesting the measures for more than a year. Media reports that many protesters from northern states such as Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and others have been camping on the outskirts of Delhi since November 2020.
Farmers argue that the new laws would lower crop prices and hurt their earnings. In January, protesters clashed with police in New Delhi, resulting in the death of at least one protester, Reuters reported.
India’s supreme court has suspended the implementation of the property laws this year.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party will run in local elections next year in places like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, which are some of the country’s largest agricultural states. This year, the national ruling party failed to win the state election in West Bengal – another major agrarian state.