After a year-long protest by the farmers of India, the Modi-led BJP government has finally decided to repeal three agricultural laws that were introduced last year in September. Long negotiations held between the government and farmer leaders led to nowhere as the bills passed were going to help big corporations and become a liability for farmers with small holdings.
The laws in question were the Farmers’ Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act that gave an additional option to farmers and traders to sell and buy outside the designated mandis. This led to fear of loss among state and commission agents and farmers. The other law was the Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act that provided a framework for contract farming. Farmer organisations said the law was framed to suit big corporations and would weaken the negotiating power of farmers. The third law was the Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act that removed stockholding limits on certain agri-commodities except during extraordinary situations. The opposition said the amendment would have benefited the hoarders, letting them dictate the terms, while at the same time hurting farmers and consumers.
Although this move comes with its advantages, farmers are still staging a sit-in as they demand that all their provisions should be agreed upon by the government. They do not trust the Modi government as they fear that it has only done this to build a better picture of itself before the elections. Most farmers belong to Punjab and are of the Sikh community. They also constitute a large part of the voting bloc in India and agriculture accounts for 15% of India’s economy. With most of the agriculture output being produced in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, and with Modi’s urge to gain support in the region, the repeal of these laws was crucial. However, this will not be enough to convince the farmers and gain their vote. Many people lost their lives in these protests and the Sikh community was once again labelled as terrorists. Such wounds do not heal with hollow apologies and promises.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, farmers in Pakistan also faced many difficulties and they put forward their demands which were mostly related to subsidies and setting minimum prices. Being an agro-based economy, Pakistan must consider the needs of its farmers first and foremost so as to avoid protests such as those that took place in India.