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India: Modi defeated withdraws agrarian reform

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Indian farmers have won: after more than a year of protests, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is forced to take the defeat and renounce agrarian reform, a measure pursued for a long time and at the heart of the country’s modernization plans.

The reverse came as a surprise on Friday 19 November, a few months before the elections in Uttar Pradesh (early next year): the most populous state of the Indian Confederation, with over 200 million inhabitants, is a key front in the confrontation. politic. There will also be voting in Punjab and Uttarakhand, two other Northern states with a strong rural vocation.

Simplification failed

The reform consisted of three laws, passed in September 2020 and then frozen. They will now be repealed by Parliament. The package tried to simplify the sector by allowing farmers to sell products directly to private companies, outside the state-regulated wholesale markets, which empower intermediaries, but guarantee a minimum purchase price, at which producers they don’t want to give up. For the government, the aim was to tackle the country’s chronic food waste and the inefficiencies of the subsidy and price-controlled system that weighs on the public coffers.

The protests

The protest broke out immediately and en masse, with demonstrations and marches in the main cities and in the capital, challenging the Covid-19 pandemic, a tragedy in India, and the restrictive measures launched several times to stop it. Protesters will demobilize only when Parliament has really repealed the disputed laws, the leaders of the movement warn. There were moments of tension, such as January 26, Indian Republic Day, when protesters overwhelmed the checkpoints with their tractors and stormed the Red Fort in New Delhi. In October 2021, eight people died in riots in Uttar Pradesh.

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Farmers’ fears

Farmers feared that the reform would pave the way for the abolition of fixed-price public purchases of wheat and rice and thus reduce their income, to the benefit of the industry giants. The government and the majority party (BJP) have tried to overcome the protests by alternating compromise offers with accusations of terrorism and separatism.

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