The three contentious farm laws that led to farmer protests for a year will be repealed, India Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced.
On November 19, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologized to the population and announced that the three farm laws would be repealed.
“While apologizing to the nation, I want to say with a sincere and pure heart that maybe something was lacking so that we could not explain the truth“, Modi said referring to the laws meant to help small farmers he recalled.
The announcement was made before Guru Nanak Jayanti, a day celebrated by Sikhs all over the world. Many protestors came from the Sikh’s community in Punjab.
The decision also comes before elections in the States of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand, home to many farmers. Farmers account for 41% of the workforce in the country and are a large source of votes while Modi remains popular among literate Indians.
Liberalization of India’s agriculture
In November 2020, farmers marched or drove from the states of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab to install camps around New Delhi, blocking roads with their tractors to contest the laws the government voted.
Although disruptions were concentrated around India’s capital city, protests also spread in agricultural areas as Punjab, the “grain bowl” of India, had its railway service highly disturbed in the end of 2020 for instance.
In 2019, Narendra Modi had pledged to double farmers’ income by 2020, which he intended to do by liberalizing and modernizing agriculture.
The laws voted in September 2020 allowed farmers to sell their products directly to private company.
Farmers have to sell their crops to state-controlled Committees. National Committees regulate rates and as such limit farmers’ profits but also ensure them of a minimal income.
But protestors claimed that large corporations would take advantage of their vulnerability by pressuring small farmers on prices.
Protests went to another level in early 2021, bringing international attention to the situation.
Farmers’ camps will stay until the laws are repealed
On January 26, during India’s Republic Day, the police had allowed 5,000 tractors to participate in a demonstration in New Dehli while The Delhi Republic Day military parade was also scheduled in the city on the same day.
But more than 200,000 tractors gathered in the capital and people breached into the Red Fort, a monument listed at the UNESCO World Heritage.
In response, India shut down mobile internet services to avoid farmers to organize themselves and cracked down on social media accounts to regain control of the conversation. India is the country voluntarily blocking Internet the most, most of the time for political motives.
But protests continued. In October 8 people died, including 4 protestors in Uttar Pradesh.
Farmers will continue to camp until the laws are officially repealed at the end of November. They also ask for a law guaranteeing a minimum price for crops.