Indian PM Narendra Modi backs repeal of contentious agriculture laws

November 19, 2021

Indian PM Narendra Modi backs repeal of contentious agriculture laws

In a move that very few expected at this point, Indian PM Narendra Modi has announced his support for the repeal of three controversial agricultural laws that led to massive protests in the past year.

India’s prime minister, who has been in power since 2014, is not a politician known for backing down. However, some experts say that political considerations probably guided the move.

Prime Minister Modi defends “good intentions” of controversial laws as he backs repeal

Lending credence to this theory, Modi revealed his decision on Friday in an address to the nation. Moreover, he has indicated that the repeal will be completed in the next month.

Indian PM Narendra Modi claimed that the laws were done with “good intentions” but acknowledged that his ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) had not communicated effectively on the issue.

The laws were introduced in September 2020 with a specific goal in mind, deregulate the agricultural sector. They offered farmers the possibility to sell their products more freely beyond the current wholesale markets regulated by the government.

With the status quo, farmers are guaranteed a minimum price, thanks to the government’s involvement.

The protests erupted around the country because the farmers believed their prices would go down in the process.

Social media helped the farmers and their message to get the backing of celebrities like singer and fashion billionaire Rihanna and climate activist Greta Thunberg.

The famous faces were accused of not fully understanding the complexity of the issue. With politics in the back of his mind, Modi said that farmers are critical to his party.

Critics claim Narendra Modi backed down for political reasons

While many farmers saw Modi’s back-track as a huge win and are celebrating, they quickly put his decision in a larger political context. According to reports, farmers represent the largest voting bloc in India.

Seven Indian states will go to the polls in 2022, and their votes will determine Modi’s political future. BJP will be on defense in six of those states.

While the party seems well placed for the 2024 general election, it is clear that Modi did not want to take some risks by continuing the fight against farmers.

The victory has not calmed some nerves in the agriculture sector. A few groups of farmers have said they intend to keep the pressure on until the repeal goes through the Parliament.

Some say the repeal of the agricultural laws is bad for India

Proponents of the legislative package maintain that it was necessary to modernize the agriculture sector in India. Moreover, the government is forced to continue carrying more weight than it can.

The laws were expected to open the door for new investments and more technology in the sector. Some experts argue there is nothing to be celebrated because the repeal is a “blow” to India.

They argue that agriculture and food processing are areas that require a lot of money, and they would have benefited from a more business-friendly environment.

Groups that supported the laws said they would have helped reduce wastage and brought more efficiency to the industry. Some observers are wondering if Modi will pay a political price for backing down.

A retreat is rarely seen as a good option in politics, but forging ahead can sometimes be worse.

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