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India parliament passes bill to repeal farm laws after Modi U-turn

Published : Tuesday, 30 November, 2021 at 12:00 AM  Count : 144

NEW DELHI, Nov 27: India's parliament on Monday passed a bill to repeal three laws aiming at deregulating agricultural markets, bowing to pressure from farmers who have protested for over a year to demand that the laws be rolled back.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi's administration introduced the farm bills last year through an executive order, traditionally reserved for emergency legislation, triggering India's longest-running farmers' protest. Parliament then passed the legislation via a voice vote, drawing widespread criticism that it had rushed through the laws without proper debate.
In a bid to end the protests ahead of the state assembly election in India's most populous Uttar Pradesh state early next year, Modi said this month his government would repeal the laws in the new session of parliament.
As parliament reconvened for its winter session on Monday, both the lower and upper houses passed the bill to withdraw the laws meant to deregulate and open up agricultural markets to companies. Farmers have said the laws would leave them with scant bargaining power against big private purchasers.
The controversial laws saw tens of thousands of people, including many elderly growers and women farmers, brave extreme
weather and a severe second wave of coronavirus infections to camp out on the outskirts of New Delhi over the past year.
In addition to their repeal demand, protesting farmers are also asking that Modi's administration introduce a law to secure government prices for produces beyond just rice and wheat. The government currently buys rice and wheat at state-set Minimum Support Prices (MSPs), but the subsidies only benefit about 6% of India's millions of farmers.
Protesters are demanding MSPs for all crops - a move that has galvanised growers across the country and taken the protest beyond India's grain-growing states of Punjab and Haryana. The government has not yet made any comment on the protesters' demand for MSPs.
Farmers celebrated the development but said the protest would only be called off when the government promised legislation on MSPs for all produce. The rallies became a lightning rod for discontent in a country where two-thirds of the 1.3 billion population rely on agriculture for their livelihood. In its first meeting for the winter session, both houses of India's parliament rushed through a bill to scrap the laws, after Modi's shock decision to reverse course earlier this month. But farmers' unions have vowed to keep up the fight against the government until they secure further concessions from the government.
They are seeking minimum prices for crops and compensation for the families of hundreds of farmers they said died during the protests, among other demands. "I don't think this government has any sympathy for farmers," Vishavjot Mann, who joined a weekend rally for agricultural workers in Mumbai, told AFP.
"The government have just announced that they will repeal the laws, not because they think that they were wrong but because they understand that these protests will hamper their election results," she added.    -REUTERS





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