Modi apologises to the Nation, repeals three controversial agricultural laws

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India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his government decision on November 19, 2021 to repeal the three agricultural laws enforced last year (Screen Grab) 

Venkat Raman
Auckland, November 21, 2021

In what has been described as a major backdown and U-turn, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologised to the Indian people and announced that his government would appeal the three controversial Agricultural Laws that saw peaceful and violent protests across the country for the past year.

Protests and demonstrations were also held in many other countries including New Zealand.

For the Sikh community which has been at the forefront of these protests, with thousands of men, women and children braving the inclement weather in make-shift camps across the State borders of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, it was a victory, achieved on the most important day in their religious calendar: Guru Nanak Jayanti.

This year marked the 552nd Birth Anniversary of one of the greatest leaders of the world who gave the world Sikhism, a new way of pious life with hard work and fortitude.

“While apologising to the countrymen, today I want to say sincerely that perhaps there must have been some deficiency in our penance that we could not explain the truth like the light of the lamp to the farmer brothers. Today is the Holy Festival of Prakash Purab of Guru Nanak Dev ji. This is not the time to blame anyone. Today I want to tell you, the entire country, that we have decided to repeal all three agricultural laws. We will complete the constitutional process to repeal these three agricultural laws in the Parliament session that begins later this month. I urge all my agitating farmer companions that today is the Holy Day of Guru Purab and therefore you should return to your homes, fields and your families. Let us make a fresh start. Let us move forward with a fresh beginning,” Mr Modi said.

The impact of the decision has been telling on the communities worldwide, a report on which appears separately in Indian Newslink Web Edition and other platforms.

Mr Modi said that his government had enacted three agricultural laws to improve the condition of the farmers. The aim was that especially the small farmers should be empowered and get the right price for their produce and more options to sell their produce.

Farmers celebrate after India’s Modi announces repeal of three farm laws that sparked almost a year of huge protests across the country, in Amritsar, Punjab (AFP Photo by Narinder Nanu)

“For years, this demand was continuously being made by the farmers, agricultural experts, agricultural economists and the farmers’ organisations of the country. In the past also, many governments had brainstormed on this issue. There was a debate in Parliament following which these laws were introduced,” he said and claimed that a large number of farmers and several farmers’ associations had supported the laws.

The farming community was however not convinced.

The protesting farmers were worried that the new laws will drive down prices and throw out the farmers from their lands. They were also concerned about the unbalanced negotiating power against a dominant corporate sector, which would infrastructure such as warehouses and refrigerated transportation.

In his address, Mr Modi acknowledged that his government’s proposals to change some of the provisions of the laws and suspend the laws altogether for two years did not cut ice with the protesting farmers.

Millions of Sikhs marked Guru Nanak Jayanti on November 19, 2021 all over the world (INL File Photo of Guru Nanak, Founder of Sikhism)

“Our government brought in the new laws with a good intention, full sincerity and complete dedication for the welfare of farmers, especially for small farmers, in the interest of the agriculture and the country and for the bright future of the poor in villages. But we have not been able to explain to some farmers such a sacred thing which is absolutely pure and for the benefit of the farmers despite our efforts,” he said.

As a part of extending an olive branch, Mr Modi said that his government will address the challenges faced by the agricultural sector more effectively.

“We will establish a Committee to decide on matters like promotion of zero budgeting farming i.e. natural farming, scientifically change the crop pattern keeping in mind the changing requirements of the country and make Minimum Support Price (MSP) more effective and transparent. The committee will include representatives of the central government, state governments, farmers, agricultural scientists and agricultural economists,” he said.

Former MP Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi, Kharag Singh Sidhu, Daljit Singh, Lali Ranvir Singh and others at the protest meeting (December 6, 2020)

Reasons for the move

What were the reasons for the Indian federal government to climb down from its earlier tough stand and repeal the three agricultural laws?

The most popular opinion is that general elections are due in Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Uttarakhand over the next three to four months and that Mr Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party faces strong regional parties in these States. Angry farmers could upset its chances of winning and its impact could be felt in other States where elections will be held next year.

Political observers however believe that the government was up against the Samyukta Kisan Morcha, an umbrella group of more than 40 farmers’ unions, which had refused to relent from its tough stand despite appeals from the government to end their protest.

Farmers continued to block motorways to Delhi through harsh winter and summer months and even through deadly Covid waves. They called for strikes across the country and dozens of them even died due to cold, heat and Covid.

Another incident could have influenced the decision. First, the son of a Federal Minister allegedly drove his car into a group of protesting farmers in Lakhimpur in Uttar Pradesh in early October 2021. He denied the allegation but was arrested. Eight people, including four farmers and a journalist, were killed in the incident which sparked outrage across the country and put the government on the back foot.

A large number of women joined the protests in India (Hindustan Times Photo by Sanchit Khanna via Getty Images)

In its Editorial, The Hindu, India’s National newspaper, said that the fears of farmers were aggravated by the undemocratic manner in which the agricultural laws were brought about through Ordinances and passed in Parliament without deliberations or consultations with the States.

“The decision to repeal them is a triumph of democracy. In bowing to public demand, Mr Modi has shown flexibility and pragmatism. Farmers should not only withdraw the protest now but also show a more flexible approach regarding the path ahead to reform the sector.”

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