Thousands of jubilant farmers on tractors, jeeps, and cars waved flags to celebrate their victory. Controversial Indian farm laws were repealed this week.
Protesting farmers camped outside the capital of New Delhi since November of last year to demand the removal of the laws. They feared the reforms would drastically shrink their incomes. (Read more about the laws and protest in Indian Farmers Fight New Laws.)
The move was seen as a major reversal and rare backdown for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. Modi’s administration had ardently defended the reforms.
Modi announced the surprise decision to withdraw the three laws in a televised national address on November 19, 2021.
“While apologizing to the nation, I want to say with a sincere and pure heart that maybe something was lacking in our efforts that we could not explain the truth to some of our farmer brothers,” Modi said during the address. “Let us make a fresh start.”
But the farmers endured a long protest, a harsh winter, and a COVID-19 surge. Some died. “Farmers will perceive it as their victory and not as a gesture of benevolence from the prime minister,” says political scientist Gilles Verniers.
The Farm Laws Repeal bill passed the lower and upper houses of Parliament on Monday.
The prime minister urged protesters to return home. But the farmers made it clear that the government has not met all of their demands.
Rakesh Tikait is one of the protest leaders. He says that the protesters need government assurances of guaranteed prices for certain crops, like wheat and rice. That system was introduced in the 1960s to help India prevent food shortages. He wants these demands settled before the famers consider ending their protests.
Why repeal the laws now? Elections are coming up. Farmers make up one of India’s most influential groups of voters. Politicians have long considered it unwise to alienate them.
Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party is eager to shore up support in states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Those are both major agricultural producers. Political analysts say it’s too early to say whether the move will work.
You cause the grass to grow for the livestock and plants for man to cultivate, that he may bring forth food from the earth. — Psalm 104:14
(Farmers celebrate news of the repeal of farm laws in Singhu, on the outskirts of New Delhi, India. AP/Manish Swarup)