What are the Implications of Repealing the Farm Laws?
By: Sashwata Saha
Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday announced the repeal of the three contentious farm laws that farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, have been protesting against at Delhi’s borders since November 26 last year.
However, the Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), representing over 40 farmers’ unions and the body at the forefront of the protests, has said that they would continue to protest as they will wait for the announcement to take effect through “due parliamentary procedures”.
Their reaction suggests demonstrations at different protest sites along Delhi’s border will continue until the next parliament session.
The timing of the announcement does feel a bit off. It would be a mistake to see it as an altruistic gesture made by the Modi government on the auspicious occasion of Guru Purab, the day of Guru Nanak’s birth that is celebrated in agriculture major Punjab and by Sikhs across the world.
Over the past year, the Centre has done everything in its power to defame and discredit the protesting farmers. The government’s rhetoric spurred on mainstream media while right-leaning experts and economists wrote columns praising the laws and their supposed economic benefits.
The Prime Minister is usually one of the first in sharing his condolences on Twitter when any tragic event happens. But ironically, he did not say a single word over the past 350 days as more than 600 farmer activists died while protesting against the laws.
With crucial state elections only a few months away in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, an announcement of this magnitude was not unexpected.
They seemed to have learnt from demonetisation.
Five years ago, ahead of the last elections in UP, Modi and company had decided to demonetise 86% of the country’s currency overnight. This severely hampered the campaigns of cash-dependent regional parties such as the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party.
For the BJP, cash was not a significant issue, given that a lot of its local campaign funding came via anonymous electoral bonds.
Assembly elections will also play out in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, and Goa over the next year.
The Lakhimpur-Kheri tragedy added fuel to the fire in UP as a convoy allegedly led by a BJP Union minister’s son rammed into farm protestors, resulting in eight deaths and injuring many more. Many non-Sikh and non-Jatt farmers who had not felt connected with the movement felt that if the “rich protesting farmers” could be crushed like this, they would be vulnerable too.
In Punjab, where former chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh recently resigned from both his party and post, the BJP aims to strike an alliance with the Captain’s new faction. So far, Singh’s only condition to join had been a complete repeal of the farm laws.
With them out of the way, it seems as if the BJP faction might end up with a chief minister face in Punjab’s old warhorse.
These three contentious farm laws — The Farmers Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Act, 2020; The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Act, 2020; and The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Act, 2020 — were first implemented on June 5, 2020, when the President of India promulgated three ordinances that were the precursors to these Acts.
These three ordinances — The Essential Commodities (Amendment) Ordinance, 2020; The Farming Produce Trade and Commerce (Promotion and Facilitation) Ordinance, 2020; and The Farmers (Empowerment and Protection) Agreement on Price Assurance and Farm Services Ordinance, 2020 — were replaced the aforementioned Acts that were passed by Parliament in September 2020.
The Supreme Court stayed the implementation of these laws on January 12, 2021.
Essentially, these laws were in effect for just 221 days.
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