Too many farmers reasonably believed that the proposals left them at the mercy of a government in hock to big business
The Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, announced last week that his controversial farm laws would be withdrawn. With five state elections looming, and his ruling Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) vulnerable in several contests, Mr Modi told the country how important farming had been to him and did something out of character: he ate humble pie in public, apologised and dropped his plans. This was the right thing to do.
Mr Modi had proposed the major changes, which threatened the livelihoods of two-thirds of India’s 1.4 billion people, during the country’s Covid lockdown in 2020. The measures had been drafted in secret and then whipped through both houses of the Indian parliament without debate. Agriculture in India does need reform, but not of the kind Mr Modi envisaged – which many farmers reasonably believed would leave them at the mercy of a government in hock to big business.
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