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Monday, December 6, 2021

India lifts controversial agriculture laws leading to protests

Sheikh Saalik | Associated Press

NEW DELHI (AP) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Friday that his government will repeal controversial agriculture laws that have sparked year-long protests from tens of thousands of farmers who said the laws would undermine their livelihoods.

Modi made a surprise announcement during a televised performance that was broadcast live. He said that the constitutional process to repeal the laws will begin in December, when parliament meets for the winter session.

The announcement was made on the day of the Guru Purab festival, the birthday of Sikhism founder Guru Nanak, and ahead of key elections in states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab. Most of the protesters were Sikh farmers from the Punjab.

The laws were passed last September and the government has defended them, saying they are necessary to modernize India’s agricultural sector and will stimulate production through private investment. But farmers protested, saying the laws would devastate their incomes by removing guaranteed pricing and forcing them to sell their crops to corporations at lower prices.

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The government has so far very little succumbed to protracted demonstrations, which posed one of the biggest political challenges for Modi, who participated in the polls for the second time in 2019.

Last November, farmers stepped up their movement, stopping in the outskirts of New Delhi, where they camped for almost a year, including due to the harsh winter and the coronavirus outbreak that devastated India earlier this year.

While the farmers’ protest movement was largely peaceful, demonstrators broke through police barricades in January to storm the historic Red Fort in the center of the capital. Clashes with police killed one protester and injured hundreds.

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